Saturday, November 20, 2010

Remembering Molly Holt

On Thursday evening our needlework world lost one of the bravest people I have known. Molly Holt died peacefully after a near 25-year-long battle with cancer.

I don't remember when I first met Molly but I would guess that Betty Chen Louis introduced us. I don't remember largely because Molly has always been such a big a part of the needlework world as I've known it. She was a regular at most guild seminars and I cannot remember a time I didn't see her at Callaway.

Molly was one of those students who made needlework a better, livelier and more inventive place. Not content to work on designs from others, Molly was a leader in studying design and color and the application of both to needlework. She studied memorably with Wilcke Smith, Jan Beaney, Jean Littlejohn, Pam Godderis and Charlotte Miller. Last year at EGA she applied and was accepted as a member of Fiber Forum, EGA's more experimental group.

Last January at Callaway I saw what I thought was such a worthwhile culmination of Molly's expression in a piece she displayed in the Callaway exhibit. It was her artistic look at her battle with cancer and it so impressed me that I posted a photo and her artist's statement on my website homepage. In honor of Molly I have re-posted the photo of her piece (above) along with her artist's statement (below).

We who knew Molly will greatly miss her and her influence on our embroidery world, although I suspect her spirit will remain close to many of us, urging us to try harder, be more experimental, look at alternatives and stray from the easy. So I won't say good bye to Molly. She will stay and help us all in memory and in spirit.

Gay Ann

Molly's artist's statement follows, below. The photo of Molly sipping coffee was from Callaway last January; the photo of Kate, Rivers, Lee and Molly was from our day at 'The Birth of Impressionism' at the DeYoung in San Francisco when we were all together for the EGA Seminar in September.

From Molly Holt:

In September 2009 my breast cancer was found to have suddenly metastasized into my liver. This piece was begun in early July of that year, a time when the cancer was actively moving, but I was not yet conscious of its presence. However, I believe my inner artist WAS very aware of what was happening in my body and that this piece came out of that awareness.

The first layer of the piece uses plain sheer fabrics to create a geometric design of recto-linear shapes. These represent the underlying strength of my overall health, although if you look closely, some of the edges are beginning to fray here and there. The second, top layer of fabric is created using both plain and printed sheers and some solid cottons as well. These very organic, slightly sinister shapes writhe and mover over the geometric surface beneath and represent the cancer cells. The machine stitching moving around the organic shapes is the chemotherapy I'm currently undergoing engulfing and attacking the cancer cells.

There are two border areas made up of black areas machine-stitched and design without the machine stitching surrounding them. Are the borders prologue, representing the time before I began treatment, the chemotherapy "lurking" and waiting at the edges, the cancer cells not yet as large or full of movement, the underlying health fraying further? Or are they the epilogue, what remains when the chemotherapy is withdrawn? That remains to be seen, but I believe my inner artist knows.

This piece was begun in a class with Maggie Weiss. She challenged us to work in black and white, although in the end I chose to add a bit of color for emphasis -- and perhaps hope. Maggie further "assigned" us to do our underlying layer as a geometric structure and the top layer in organic shapes. The shapes were to be in three sizes and have cut out areas. The design itself was left entirely up to each student.

No comments: