Curator María Elena Ortiz had been with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for a mere half-year when she first stepped into Jammie Holmes’ studio located in the Design District. Holmes, donned in his self-designed all-black attire, was in the midst of creating multiple large-scale paintings. Ortiz was immediately captivated by Holmes’ unique artistic style—a blend of humanistic figuration, dynamic brushwork, and deeply personal themes.
Holmes’ first solo museum exhibition, titled “Make the Revolution Irresistible,” is on display until November 26. The exhibition, which is also the first to feature a local artist on such a grand scale in a long time, showcases 15 paintings and an installation. Ortiz describes this as a natural progression in Holmes’ artistic journey.
Holmes gained national attention in June 2020 when he flew banners over five U.S. cities, including Dallas, displaying the last words of George Floyd. The artist continues to engage with contemporary social issues, often drawing inspiration from the American South.
Holmes hails from Thibodaux, Louisiana, where he was raised in a community grappling with poverty and marginalization. However, the community was also characterized by resilience, kinship, and faith. These experiences deeply influence his art, which is imbued with empathy and highlights the dignity of everyday life.
Holmes’ art is not merely autobiographical; it aims to represent the underrepresented. His paintings often feature figures in ordinary settings but with extraordinary emotional depth. For instance, a painting of a simple house with a fan in the window speaks volumes about his upbringing and the broader context of the American South.
Holmes also incorporates elements of political activism in his work. He pays tribute to the Black Panther Party and other radical figures who have influenced him. His art serves as a narrative that intertwines personal experiences with broader social and political themes.
Holmes initially found it difficult to paint faces, a challenge he attributes to his own struggles with self-perception. However, after undergoing therapy, he began to incorporate faces, eyes, and hands into his art. This development coincided with his journey from being a self-taught artist to mastering figuration and nuanced skin tones.
Holmes employs various symbols in his paintings to encourage viewers to engage more deeply with his work. One such painting, “Zebra in the Room,” serves as a visual autobiography, featuring elements like a newspaper reporting on Hurricane Katrina and an embodiment of the women who raised him.
For the exhibition, Holmes also created his first installation—a small chapel that serves as an extension of his artistic world. The title of the exhibition is inspired by the words of Toni Cade Bambara, a radical Black feminist filmmaker, emphasizing the role of art in making revolution irresistible.
Holmes’ work is a compelling blend of personal narrative, social commentary, and artistic innovation. It invites viewers to engage emotionally and intellectually, making it one of the most stirring exhibitions of figurative work currently available. Holmes believes that it is through humanizing his subjects that he can make the message universal and the revolution irresistible.
Holmes will deliver a lecture as part of the Tuesday Evenings at the Modern Lecture Series on September 19 at 6 p.m.