Sum & Substance: Steven Gordon Holman

Sum & Substance: Steven Gordon Holman

Steven Gordon Holman The Graces

The Graces, 2014, geodes, rabbit skulls, bronze, steel, paint, waxed cord, U-bolt, 16 x 9 x 4 in. Photo: Steven Gordon Holman

Some artists’ work is firmly rooted in a given place. Steven Gordon Holman is such an artist, and his touchstone is the American West – specifically the manmade, close-to-the-land culture of the West. Holman’s work also alludes to the complex, unyielding power of nature; it attracts, and it repels. “His jewelry embodies everything humans lust for but are disgusted by,” says Michael Gayk.

How he got started: My interest in jewelry began when I was growing up in rural Utah. My mother and grandmother have a very large fine jewelry collection, and I loved poring through it. My great-greatgrandfather was the first goldsmith in Montana, an immigrant from Germany, and stories of his life definitely sparked my interest. My first experience actually making jewelry came from an apprenticeship I did in 2009 with Ted Harris, a traditional silversmith in the Native [American] tradition. Harris owned a local café and made silverwork to sell. I asked him to show me how to do it one day, and I was hooked.

His training: My training in metals was pretty nontraditional. I worked as an apprentice on and off for a year, but my early education and bachelor’s degree had little to do with metalsmithing. After my first stint working with silver, I completely changed trajectory, took a course in metals at RISD, and began to look into metalsmithing graduate programs. This eventually led me to SUNY New Paltz, where I received my MFA.

How he describes his work: I usually explain it as “adornment for the contemporary hunter-gatherer,” as artifacts of “the Tribe.” The Tribe is my moniker for members of hunting culture at large, and its conception comes from the myths of my upbringing. In creating these artifacts I grapple with ideas of hunting, gathering, storytelling, ritual, and performance in an exploration of contemporary hunting culture.