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Holley is a man of many myths and talents. Born in Jim Crow-era Birmingham, Alabama, as the seventh of 27 children, Holley traveled across the South and held a wide array of jobs (grave digger, cotton picker, and short-order cook at Disney World) before making his first artwork at the age of 29. Self taught, he started carving sculptures from sandstone and then settled on his preferred material: found objects. Holley has made totemic sculptures from items such as steel scrap, plastic flowers, melted televisions, defunct machines, and crosses.
Holley was included in the seminal exhibition More than Land and Sky: Art From Appalachia at the National Museum of American Art in 1981. In 2013 The Whitney Museum, NY, most recently hosted Holley’s debut New York performance concurrent to the museum’s Blues for Smoke exhibition. His work is included in museum collections, including; Smithsonian American Museum of Art, Washington, DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee, WI; Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; and the American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY. Holley has also gained recognition for his music, and he has collaborated with the indie-rock bands Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective.