The history of Dallas’ Black neighborhoods is tied to the expansion of the city’s highway system.
As it grew, it displaced entire communities. Artist Riley Holloway’s latest work is informed by this history. In the Art&Seek Spotlight, he tells Art&Seek how recording people’s memories of their old neighborhoods led to a series of paintings called “Made in America.”
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Made in America: Portrait of a City @ the African American Museum of Dallas Riley Holloway, solo exhibition Opening Aug 22 6 – 8pm Showing thru Sept 7th . . . . #dallas #fortworth #fortworthart #dallasart #dma #painting #portraitpainter #portraitpainting #paintingstudio #paintingprocess #paintingoftheday #paintingtechnique #artiststudio #contemporaryart #figurativepainting #figurativeoilpainting #instaart #instaartist #artstudio #artcollector #artforsale #atelier #illustration #artwork #sketchbook #interiordecor #interiordesign #soloexhibition #newyorkart #thedeancollection
Riley, you’re probably best known for your work as a portrait painter. And in the past, most of your paintings have been of people that you know – your wife, your mother, your friends. Now, you’re taking on Dallas’ African American history. Why?
Why add the element of sound?
Can you talk a little bit about how you found these people? Did you have folks in mind? Or were you meeting one person and then they’d tell you who to talk with next?
But then I was like, “Wait. There’s Marilyn Clark. I can start there. And after I went to Clark, that’s when I got a good number of activists to speak with. And that’s when I started to see, “Oh! This is how you shape the visual aspect of a city.”
Riley, throughout the exhibition “Made in America” we hear people talking the places they grew up. And here’s a piece of audio that stood out to me. It’s from a South Dallas native named Alpha Thomas. She talks a bit about how home isn’t the same anymore”
“I don’t even go down there anymore, because it’s so heartbreaking,” says Thomas. “And when I do go down there to visit, I sit in my truck and I cry because I have these memories and I’m standing there and I’m reliving what it was like. And then I look at it today, and it’s like a nightmare! And it’s really had an effect on my psyche.”
What do you think about hearing that from Alpha Thomas? Can you tell us a little bit about her?
But there was another side to her when she started talking about her neighborhood. She mentioned the freeways which was like a constant thing that kept coming up during all of my interviews. It was coming up when people talked about the narratives of their communities being displaced.”
And these are new freeways and highways that are displacing people, right?
Anyway, for me, the tragedy was actually going to the location that she talked about. Because what you see is a boarded-up house and the end of a sidewalk. It was like someone cut the sidewalk in the middle. And it’s just gone. And you can tell that there used to be a row of houses there. And you just go, “Oh! Wow.” So on one side of the freeway, there are houses. And on the other side, there are houses. It’s a neighborhood. But they just put this freeway right in the middle of it.
So the tricky part is that someone can say that that’s wrong. And another person can say it’s okay. You got to expand, right? But what I wanted to do was say, “This is how that decision impacts people. Here’s something you can’t argue with. Her memories of home are gone.” You know? It’s just a tricky situation. I have no answers. But I am trying to compile all of the puzzle pieces, so I can put it together.
Well, I think you’ve done an amazing job. Riley, thanks for having me in your studio. And thanks for sharing your experience with Art&Seek.
Interview questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.