From worms to Whitney: Inside Lonnie Holley’s imaginative world

Self-taught artist Lonnie Holley has enjoyed a visual arts career spanning 35 years, but the 63-year-old Atlanta resident has experienced recent meteoric success as a musician. Last year he performed at the Whitney Museum of American Art and mounted his first European concert tour. His debut CD, “Just Before Music,” put out by Atlanta’s Dust-to-Digital label, made The Washington Post’s “Top 10 Albums of 2013” list. His next album, “Keeping a Record of It,” took second place in the Chicago Sun-Time’s annual top-10 list, trailing Kanye West’s “Yeezus.”

Previously best known for his “sandstone” carvings and sculptural assemblages made of found objects, Holley is also a printmaker, painter, photographer, collagist, computer artist and unorthodox storyteller. His work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the American Folk Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, to name a few.

For most of April, Holley’s visual art will be on view in a storefront-cum-gallery at Ponce City Market, formerly City Hall East. Titled “It’s Like Coming Home,” the new show brings together about 30 works from the mid-1990s to the present. Most significantly, it’s the first public display of the sculptures Holley created in January during an artist residency with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

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