by Sayaka Matsuoka
For artist Dana Holliday, the disaster in Nepal feels personal.
Crisp photographs and colorful, abstract paintings covered the walls of a small back room in High Point’s 512 Collective last Friday as Holliday’s art show opened to the public. Fittingly titled Nepal: Journey of the Spirit, Holliday’s show exhibits images taken in and inspired by the South Asian country, after her trip there for three weeks late last November. She and her close friend Lisa made the decision to travel there on a spiritual journey but discovered much more when they became close to locals, like their tour guide Bhim Chand and his family during their stay in Chand’s home for a week.
Now, Holliday is selling her works and using all of the proceeds to support families like Chand’s, fragmented by the April earthquakes that killed more than 8,800 people and injured more than 23,000.
Her photographs depict the local people of Nepalese villages, with a strong focus on women and children. They wear bright scarves and gold jewelry and eyeliner can be seen on the faces of many of the young girls. Photos of women balancing coiled rope bowls on their heads walking down dirt roads resemble ones in magazines like National Geographic but this time an ominous feeling is associated with each of the subjects depicted.
Inevitable questions of the women’s survival and their existence now loom around the photographs, evoking somber thoughts.
Her paintings, conversely, are vibrant and joyful. While many of them lean towards abstraction, converging splotches of red, blue, orange and green in the same canvas, others — like the one Joyce Traver snatched up — represent life in Nepal.
Lined up next to the photograph that it drew inspiration from, the painting portrays a lone clothesline hanging in front of a wall with chipping paint and overgrown vines. Large sheets of orange and red fabric drape over, adding a pop of color to a bland background.
“When I heard that all the proceeds go to the families I had to buy it,” said Traver, one of Holliday’s friends.
Now she just has to decide where to display it.
“I can put it next to the kitchen table,” Traver thought aloud. “I’m excited.”
A table in the center of the room displayed plastic bracelets, hand-woven tops and cards that said things in scribbly handwriting like “We can help” and “Nepal” on them. A mannequin with a lime-green sequined dress and a necklace rested in the corner of the room.
As more people filed into the tiny space in the back of the 512 Collective, Holliday made her way around, greeting friends and telling her story.
She reminisced about the time she bought the dress in Nepal and how she wore it again last Christmas. She explains how she and Lisa connected with Chand, who works for Earth Paradise tours, and about Ramesh Soltee, a 22-year old who was living in the Kathmandu Valley area of Nepal. She stays connected with Soltee through Facebook and found out that due to random luck, neither his nor Chand’s homes were destroyed.
She continued verbally painting a picture of her trip there, mentioning the poor water system and her trips to orphanages in the area.
“We are so blessed and privileged in the United States,” she said.
She explains that Chand has been mobilizing neighbors and helping surrounding communities affected by the quakes by distributing supplies and building shelter out of tarps with Earth Paradise’s logo on them. That was when Holliday decided that she had to do something to help, too.
“I was planning on having a show anyways but I felt the urge to do it now,” Holliday said.
And instead of sending money through an organization, she’s sending funds directly to Chand and Soltee.
“I just felt their souls,” she said. “They are good people.”
Nepal: Journey of the Spirit will be on display at the 512 Collective (HP) thru the end of June.