Bling-bling!: Hollander is big on color, more; work featured at 321 Gallery

Mirror photo by Cherie Hicks / Barbara Hollander poses beside her artwork “Flower Bomb” at 321 Gallery in Hollidaysburg.

Barbara Hollander, the local art museum coordinator, is colorful. It’s evident in the clothes she usually wears and the art she often chooses for display. Even her hair is a shade of red.

“I do love color, and I like them all,” Hollander said. “I like black, too. The last line of my artist’s statement is: It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that bling,” she added, with a laugh and a “doo-wop-doo-wop-doo-wop.”

Hollander may be known as the coordinator for the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Altoona. But she’s an artist in her own right, and her latest works are featured at an exhibition at the 321 Gallery in Hollidaysburg through the end of the year.

“Due to her busy schedule and many artistic commitments, we are finally able to exhibit a significant portion of her work at our venue,” said 321 Gallery co-owner Peter Grab. “Her exploration of colors and shapes is a journey well worth taking.”

In the rear of the gallery is a large showing of more than 50 pieces from Art in Common, a local group of artists.

“Art in Common has been with us since before we opened our doors to the public,” Grab said. “This talented group of artists introduced us to the area’s vibrant artist community. We are grateful for the opportunity to show their work.”

The gallery is hosting a free reception honoring Hollander and Arts in Common tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. with live music, wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Hollander’s exhibit includes 15 pieces centered around three themes: Floral, Kaleidoscopes and, mostly, Tides.

“We spend a lot of time on the ocean in South Florida,” she said, referring to her and her husband’s second home in Palm Beach. “You see a repetition of horizontal lines in the tides. There is a lot of repetition in nature, and most artists today are falling back on what we see in nature.”

The Kaleidoscope theme for this show is represented in a work that encompasses 15 separate, three-dimensional pieces that look like, well, kaleidoscopes. With their horizontal lines, they’re reminiscent of her Tides series across the gallery and could be hung any way the buyer desires, she said.

“All of my themes seem to be kind of running together,” Hollander added with a smile.

And, she mostly works in mixed media.

“Art supplies have changed dramatically,” she said. “You have glossy paints, flats, paints with sparkles. I don’t see anyone painting straight anymore. Everybody is doing mixed media. We don’t like to have rules. We don’t like to have borders.”

A good example is her “Fickle Fauna,” in which several crystals appear to be dropping into the mat of the frame.

“I like to embellish with stones. Some are natural, some are artificial,” said Hollander, who is getting ready to use opals in her work.

Hollander used the last of her Swarovski crystals from Austria on her “Strawberry Fields,” the canvas of which is Plexiglass. She painted the black, adding to its burst of colors.

But she doesn’t always paint the back of the Plexiglass when she uses it as a canvas. One of her Tides pieces ended up being clear that lets the color of the wall show through. Plus, the medium casts shadows on the wall, creating a three-dimensional effect the artist hadn’t considered until she removed the backing and liked what she saw.

She painted “Internal Inferno” on steel, bent to give an even deeper 3-D effect than all her layers of paint.

“I always want to touch art, get up close to it,” Hollander said. “Of course, I respect it, but that’s why many of pieces are indestructible. They can handle some handling.”

Hollander has only shown locally once before, at Penn State Altoona several years ago; she has had two exhibitions in South Palm Beach in the last five years.

“It would be a conflict of interest to show at SAMA,” she said. “I won’t even enter the Art in Common (juried competition there). It just wouldn’t look good.”

So a lot of locals aren’t aware of her work and certainly haven’t seen it, she said. But the pieces at 321 Gallery haven’t been seen before because they are so new.

How new?

“One is in the back still drying,” she said.

Hollander grew up near Wilkes-Barre and and art “is all I ever did,” she said. She was constantly creating a house and other accessories for her Barbie dolls from cardboard.

“You don’t realize at the time what’s going on, but I loved getting those huge sets of crayons,” she said.

Much later, in high school, Hollander said she didn’t realize that art was her passion until she started making other students’ pottery.

“That’s when I realized I was different,” she said. “I was lucky to have a school full of art and great teachers.”

She earned an art education degree from Monmouth University and was a substitute teacher for a time until she got married to Joel Hollander and they moved to Altoona. After teaching art at Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School for three years, she became a stay-at-home mother, raising her three daughters.

As the girls grew up, Hollander started working parttime when then-SAMA director Michael Strueber approached her about working for the museum, first as education coordinator and later as coordinator at the Altoona museum.

“I then began this fabulous career that I’m still pursuing today and still love,” she said. “I’m trying to show my vitality for life.”

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.


If you go

What: Featured artist Barbara Hollander

Where: 321 Gallery, 321 Allegheny St., Hollidaysburg

When: Through the end of the year

Admission: Free

More information: (814) 317-5045