A professor's legacy, exhibit pays tribute to late UW-Parkside artist

Published: March 31, 2017

SOMERS — "David Holmes changed my future in one semester."

"The gift he gave me was artistic freedom. I am no longer bound by a set of preconceived lines that define what art is or should be. He taught me that it is perfectly OK to blur those lines."

"David went out of his way to inspire his students to appreciate the natural world, not take themselves too seriously and, above all, to make art. I have been teaching art for 17 years now and I still find myself targeting David V. Holmes-ness into my classroom."

These are just a few lines from 16 different, artist-written tributes to the late David Holmes, longtime professor of art at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside who died in 2014 at age 69. They are featured, alongside a work of art by each artist, in an exhibition titled "A Professor's Legacy: Students of David V. Holmes," currently on display in the university's Mathis Gallery.

The show — which runs through April 19 and includes work in a wide range of media and styles — reflects the far-reaching impact that Holmes had on his students during his 30-plus years at UW-Parkside, 900 Wood Road, Somers, according to Amanda Brown, university gallery director and curator. An opening reception is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 1, in the gallery in the university's Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities.

Lasting influence

It is interesting to see how these artists, who were all impacted by one person, are all working in very different styles, Brown said. "It is my understanding that David encouraged each artist to develop their own aesthetic and style," she said. "And you see that, repeatedly, in this exhibition."

While Holmes' influence on participating artists can be more easily seen in some works of art than in others, the marks he left on all of them is obvious in their written statements. Students from throughout his career — some still living in this area and others now based in Los Angeles, Chicago and Northern Wisconsin — express their appreciation for how Holmes not only inspired and encouraged them, but also challenged and pushed them to achieve. They mention "Holmesian" quotes, which stick with them years later and, in some cases, they tell how his classes altered career paths and lives.

Glen Larson — a student of Holmes in the late 1970s who later worked with him as a university staff member — said that he was also a professor who was always willing to learn and continually refresh himself.

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Now an assistant curator of galleries at UW-Parkside, Larson remembers how Holmes would allow extra time after an exam to go back over each question and discuss the answers with his students, while the subject was still fresh in their minds.

"Sometimes students would disagree with his answers and David would listen to what they had to say," Larson said. "He cared a great deal about his students and he wanted to make sure they understood what he was saying."

900 Wood Road · P.O. Box 2000 · Kenosha, WI 53141-2000 P 262-595-2345

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