Hello Brooke! Hey, its Robert Hollingsworth. How are you?
I’m good, thanks!
Uh, I am almost to the art building. Where should I park? Oh, you have a pass for me. That’s great– back by the loading dock?
Perfect. I will see you in a few minutes.
As I pulled into the parking lot at Meek Hall on the campus of Ole Miss, I saw my friend and artist Brooke P. Alexander standing there waiting on me with a special parking pass in hand.
Hello, how are you? We hug and walk inside her studio.
So, tell me what all has been going on since the last time we saw each other? What are you working on, where are you showing, what are you selling? As I look around her studio, I see small, wonderful paintings of flowers, buildings, and houses up on the wall.
I’m sorry, somebody is blowing me up on my phone today.
I imagine that is your everyday!
“No, actually it’s not, fortunately. The older I get the less interesting I get. Okay, I’m sorry, done.
I’ve got paintings stacked.
Yes, let’s look while we are here.
These are my thesis pieces. I think you have seen these. I haven’t done anything as large as these anymore because then you get into transporting them. Why do I paint something the size of a truck bed?
So, that is something else that young artists such as yourself have to deal with: size. Getting one of these to Southside for an exhibition might be fairly easy. You could always borrow a truck or van but if you had to pay to ship these to someone…
Exactly! I own a truck, but I don’t have a bed cover. One piece that I took to Decatur for a show, and Decatur is three hours from here, it barely – and I mean barely – fit in the cab. It was all in my space, and I had to drive for three hours hunched over my steering wheel like this. But it made it!
What are these little poems you are writing on the back?
Oh, so, for thesis. Most of them got a poem and I ended up writing one poem to encapsulate them all that I put on the wall.
So, are you doing these before the painting or after the painting?
It depended on the painting. Some were written before I began the composition and were used as sketches. Some of them were written after I had begun painting and my ideas had started to change. Do you know Matt Long?
Yes, I have met him.
He said one day, he was on my committee, it’s like your brain lives somewhere in between the words and the paint, and it kind of does. Literature so heavily influences me. I’m always thinking about literature and words, and so that was a way to help process for me. And I consider the poems part of the sketches.
How interesting is that? A lot more thought and depth.
Yes. I have some more paintings that you may have seen. She reaches for several large pieces wrapped in plastic.
You don’t have to unwrap those.
You may have seen him.
Yes, I do remember him.
Yes, I liked him a lot. I remember the hands. That is one of the things my late friend and colleague Sandy Wade would always tell me: to look at the hands. You can tell a lot about someone by their hands and the way they are painted.
You do a great job with them. Have you thought about putting your work on Artsy?
I don’t really know about it. I have a friend who is a young artist, and she has her work on there. I’m not sure how her sales are but it is out there for the whole world to see.
It is being seen on a global platform. I get on the site frequently to look at work from new artists and works from artists that I would love to have in our collection. Maybe it could be another avenue to help you get your work shown and to be seen.
I have never had anyone suggest it to me, so I am kind of leery of it.
Well, you have what, two weeks before classes start, right? You have time to look at Artsy and you should look into New American Paintings. You need to go back and find the email I sent you on Crosstown Arts. If you can’t find it, I can find it and resend it to you. It had a lot of information on their programs and their residency program. It is less than two hours to Memphis, and all of y’all should come up and visit the galleries, and space, and Crosstown more. I have always been a fan of your work, and I hope that you know I will do what I can to try and help you out.
So, what is in this pile over here? You know these are the piles that I like to go through.
Yes, I remember you saying that in the past! This one is in progress. Still trying to figure it out and some of these just did not work out. This was a self-portrait. That was from my thesis show.
Yes, I can see that. Those are interesting. Have I seen this one?
I don’t think so. It’s my mom, she’s such a good model. It is one that I did not get to finish.
These are all from grad school.
What about the house? That’s nice, that is really nice.
That is new. I did that this summer. It is my parent’s house.
I love that. I would love a house like that.
Well this has been great! I always enjoy visiting with you. I will say this, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but I thought that maybe there would have been a few more.
There are lots more at my apartment, but these are the most current. No, there should always be more.
Well, let’s go have a lunch. How about Saint Leo?
That would be great.
Robert Hollingsworth is the director of David Lusk Gallery in Memphis. He resides in Memphis with his husband and two Boston Terriers, Dill and Violet. Brooke P. Alexander is an artist and Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Mississippi.
Images: Brooke P. Alexander studio images shot during conversation August 12, 2019, mixed media. Photos courtesy of Robert Hollingsworth.