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Rebel Rebel

Michelle Holley at Mars Cafe


Holley’s “Rebel Rebel” (Source: Alex Thompson)

Response by Alex Thompson

December 12, 2013

Today I visited the very nice and well-known shop, Mars Café located on University Avenue by Drake University.  Inside hanging from the walls, was a collection of art works all done by the same artist, Michelle Holley. Toward the back of the café above the booths was a specific piece that caught my attention.  The piece is titled “Rebel Rebel.”  It hangs about 1x2 feet and appears to be made from separate painted pieces of cardboard cut to the shape of the design and attached to the same canvas.  The piece depicts a beautiful woman with long dark hair comprised of a variety of purple geometric shapes.  Out of the top of her head, she has deer ears and antlers.  The background of the piece is filled with lines of bright popping blue and abstract “zig zag” figures painted with shades of pink.  The most prominent part of the piece, and the reason I believe it caught my attention, is the woman’s eyes.  They are incredibly animalistic and appear to have a calm and focused nature yet bring with them an intense ferocity.  In fact, to me the eyes appear as if they were taken from some animal and placed on the woman’s face.  My initial response to them was a mixture between arousal, attraction and intimidation.  I felt compelled to look at the piece, but not into the woman’s eyes. Her stare made me feel slight discomfort. 

I visited and found out that the artist’s inspiration for the collection was a commentary on the social acceptance of the terrors that transgressed against this nations original ancestors, the Native Americans, and how there are similarities within this and the way we view groups of minorities today.  Stylistically, I see the Native American influence in each piece.  Many of them involve the animalistic characteristics of owls, deer, and wolves combined with beautiful female figures. In reference to my personal reaction, this theme fits the woman’s intense eyes.  I view it as a calm but intense anger that the woman has.  She is infuriated by the transgressions of the past but is forced to remain composed and beautiful due to the social acceptance of the actions. Yet, all her animalistic emotions are apparent in her attitude.  The presence of the antlers growing out of her head demonstrate that she can no longer hold in the fury and disgust at societies indifference to the events and thus she becomes a “rebel” disregarding societies beliefs and giving into her inner animal.  

My name is Alex Thompson and I am from Denver, Colorado.  I currently reside in Des Moines as I am a student attending Drake University studying psychology and philosophy.