Artist Interview: Holly Markhoff

Posted by Jenni Kirby - June 02 2020

Although Holly Markhoff grew up in a family that expressed themselves artistically, it took a while for her to become a professional artist “My mother was a professional writer, and I always saw that the arts were something that you loved and did, but that they could be difficult as a career,” she says. She majored in psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, became a mental health counselor, taught Judaic studies and pre-school before recognizing she could be a professional artist. A seed was planted when her now husband invited her to Arts Around the Lake (a defunct art show that was held annually at University of Richmond) for their first date. While walking around looking at the exhibits, Markhoff was inspired. She says, “I thought, ‘One day I’m going to be here.’ ”


Over a decade later, painting, and taking a variety of art courses all the while, Markhoff was deciding between going back to graduate school in the mental health field or applying to a university art school.  Excited about the thought of immersing herself in fine arts, she applied for a space at the Arts Around the Lake art show that she and her husband had attended years ago on that first date. She was accepted and sold almost all of the paintings she exhibited there. Encouraged, she started applying to other shows and to CAC. “Getting into Crossroads was a huge confidence booster for me,” she says.


When asked about the appeal of her pieces to viewers, Markhoff explains, “I try to be joyful in my painting. I know that there is a place in the art world for emotional or political paintings, but I want my paintings to be thought provoking in a positive way. The subjects are connecting with something that will uplift the viewer. I want the painting to provoke a positive experience.”


Outside of painting Markhoff has a passion for old books, particularly with the theme of sociology and women studies. “I like books from the pre-1900’s and early 1900’s about women, and different groups, and their place in society,” she says. “I am really interested in how we [as a society] evolved to where we are and how we look at the world so differently.”


Perhaps the evolution she appreciates in her books mirrors the evolution she has experienced with her art- growing from decorative to positively powerful.