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Discover the Stars: Edward Holland’s ‘Celestial Sea’ at BMAC Showcases 12 Zodiac-Inspired Masterpieces

Stargazing and Zodiac systems have played a role in human imagination for millenia, and artist Edward Holland continues that tradition with the exhibition “Celestial Sea,” currently on view at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC). Holland will join curator Mara Williams for an online discussion of his work on Saturday, May 11, at 7 p.m.
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Stargazing and Zodiac systems have played a role in human imagination for millenia, and artist Edward Holland continues that tradition with the exhibition “Celestial Sea,” currently on view at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC). Holland will join curator Mara Williams for an online discussion of his work on Saturday, May 11, at 7 p.m.

The discussion takes place on Zoom and Facebook Live; admission is free and open to all. To register and receive a Zoom link via email, visit brattleboromuseum.org.

For Holland, the constellations represent an ancient way of storytelling and communicating universal myths about human nature and the world. He uses the Western Zodiac, which took shape 2,500 years ago, to frame and anchor the work in “Celestial Sea,” highlighting both the physical aspects of star formations as well as the cultural implications and narrative associations.

Edward Holland’s collage paintings make use of oil and acrylic paint, printed paper, and graphite. Each painting is built around the linear geometry of a modern zodiac sign, with the stars marked by tiny Xs. Sometimes the Zodiac sign is obvious; other times it is almost completely hidden. “Holland meticulously builds up layer after layer of surface, encoding each canvas with a host of potential allegories and meanings for viewers to decipher,” Williams says. The layers—swaths of paint; photographs of people, news articles, and scientific charts; calligraphic lines—add complexity, energy, and questions: Who are the people in the photos? Why this news headline, or that piece of text? How are they connected to this star sign?

Edward Holland

“The work is abstract rather than illustrative, built around mythology and myth-making in ways that are open to interpretation,” Holland says.

Edward Holland allows the Zodiac signs to dictate his artmaking process, too, such as when he chooses collage elements and colors. One painting, inspired by Aries the ram, includes the traditional Aries color red, representing passion, energy, and action. Instead of seeing this approach as restricting, Holland considers it a challenge, full of possibility. He says, “I have to ask myself, how do I make a compelling and unique work of art within similar sets of creative circumstances?”

That creative challenge and the openness of interpretation is what drives Holland’s work, far more than any interest in astrology. “I am interested in how every person has a unique set of ideas, memories, and feelings that influence their reading of an artwork,” he says. “The viewer reconciles the gestures, colors, and scraps of collage paper into their own understanding. Each time they look at one of the paintings, it can be different.”

Edward Holland

Edward Holland was born in Philadelphia in 1980. He received a B.F.A. in painting from Syracuse University and M.A. in studio art from New York University. His work has been shown in galleries nationwide, including Causey Contemporary, New York; Gallery 543 at URBN, Philadelphia; Long-Sharp Gallery, Indianapolis; MM Fine Art, Southampton, New York; and Gerald Peters Gallery, New York, and Santa Fe. His work has been discussed in ArtZealous, Huffington Post and Eyes Towards the Dove, among others. He lives and works in New York City.

“Edward Holland: Celestial Sea” is on view through June 16, 2024.

Brattleboro Museum & Art Center

Founded in 1972, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. BMAC is open Wednesday-Sunday, 10-4. Admission is free, courtesy of M&T Bank. Located in historic Union Station in downtown Brattleboro, at the intersection of Main Street and Routes 119 and 142, the museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information and accessibility requests, visit brattleboromuseum.org, call 802-257-0124, or send email to office@brattleboromuseum.org.

BMAC is supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Brattleboro Savings & Loan, C&S Wholesale Grocers, the Four Columns Inn, Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, and Whetstone Beer Co.

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