An Artful Life
I met Brucie Holler at the door to her art studio at the Gallery of Shops at Sea Pines Circle. It is a brisk, bright Thursday morning. I am about to enter a magical space-sparce, pristine, hushed. It is infused with light and energy, behind, beneath, and beyond the morning sunlight.
Her studio is the space formerly inhabited by the Jiva Yoga Center. She has transformed it into a spacious, white artist's aerie. The press of bodies exercising mat-to-mat is absent, but something of the meditative yogic spirit remains.
Brucie is striking, her coloring vivid against the blanched background. She sits at her small, immaculate desk and I sit across from her. She is wearing artsy earrings and a beautifully cut grey sweater. I am entranced by her eyes and her voice and her whole demeanor. She looks familiar, but I suspect this may just be one of those interior recognitions. We determine that her name comes from the Scottish clan of "Bruce" from which she is descended.
Some of her abstract paintings hang on the wall, but most of her work-all originals-have gone to private collectors or are hanging in galleries. She has just completed a body of work she titled "Sky's Big Hand". Her canvases are large, 5-feet by 6-feet. "I am inspired by nature and being outside and by poetry. The most important thing for me is paying attention. Every experience I have comes from me and through me into my work."
As she talks she is intensely alive and serene, philosophical and pragmatic, earthy and spiritual. She is a study of contrasts. "I try to bring creativity into everything I do. I think there can be a sacred beauty-and I don't mean just prettiness-in day-to-day life. I want to be a good cook and eat really good food. I want to be a good gardener. I want to be a good parent and teach my boys (15-year-old twins) that life is not about what you can purchase and what you have, but about being true to yourself." She laughs and shifts in her chair. "Although, I love buying pretty shoes. And I definitely paint better when I'm wearing really cool boots."
The vision of sacred beauty informs her life and her work. It is a vision she shares with her husband Greg, a massage therapist whom she met working at Truffles in Sea Pines 22 years ago. She was a self-described rebellious art student with no interest in a relationship and a "purple-dyed crew cut" to ward off the possibility. Her sister, who was living in Hilton Head, knew better. She insisted Brucie come and visit.
Brucie and Greg eventually moved to Telluride, CO and got married. "It's a remarkable environment for artists, and I met really strong powerful women there. But it can be really radical. They believe in making your own baby wipes." When she got pregnant with the twins she knew she needed her sister in her daily life. They moved back to Hilton Head.
She talks again about conscious awareness, being authentic and true to yourself. She and Greg have chosen a life that values curiosity, self-expression, and experience over possessions and things. It can be a challenge to model these values to teenage boys growing up in an affluent resort town.
It is also a challenge to prioritize the demands of a busy life. She admits to her fantasy of becoming an "art monk." I am delighted by the image. She may have coined the term, but not the sentiment. She says, "I have a beautiful life. I know it and I am so grateful. But sometimes I imagine what I might accomplish without the pulls of being a wife, mother, sister, daughter. and now the Associate Director of Education at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina."
She acknowledges that these real-life demands teach her the critical importance of being single focused and present when she crosses the threshold into her studio. She practices her "off-the-mat" yoga, bringing mindfulness and focused attention to her work. "It's a dance, because you have to use your critical judgment to tell you what's working, and at the same time trust your intuition and get out of your own way to create. I can't allow myself to get distracted in here."
She has a goal. "I want my paintings to transcend themselves.as though God has stepped through them."
After I leave, I sit quietly in my car for a while. I have definitely felt touched by a sacred beauty in her paintings and her life.
Favorite Famous Quote: "Paint as you like and die happy." -Henry Miller
About Her Husband: "I'm married to a wonderfully conscious man. He's esoteric and I'm pragmatic."
Training: She graduated from The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD
Best Personal Quote: "I'm working on still trying to have a happy childhood."
See Her Work: at Camellia Art Gallery, Hilton Head Island, and Parker Art Gallery, St. Simons Island, GA.