“i shouldn’t have tried putting her cancer treatment on credit cards.” The message isn’t what one would expect to find in an art exhibition in the lobby of a downtown bank, but Holly Cannell’s show at the U.S. Bank on First Ave. and Columbia is doing just that.
Cannell is an artist who recently created a series of work based on her experiences volunteering with the homeless, both here and in her native Houston. She is promoting her work as a benefit for homeless groups, offering $100 off any piece for a donation of at least $50 to a nonprofit organization that helps the poor. The branch regularly displays local artists and also works with the Union Gospel Mission and other homeless organizations.
The two forces came together in January. “We were really drawn to Holly’s work because of its message and because it’s a benefit,” says Rebecca Garrett, bank customer service manager.
Each painting is an abstract illustration accompanying prose painted onto the canvas. Though Cannell uses a variety of styles and the tones match the theme of the prose, she is fond of thick, textured oils, some vivid and colorful, others subdued and subtle.
The prose — which ranges from thoughts on poverty to accounts of being homeless — sound authentic but was actually written by Cannell. “I’ve never been homeless myself,” she clarifies, “but each piece is real and based on a story or conversation I’ve had.”
The stories read like first-person testimonies: “The Value of a Dollar” is a child’s point of view on money, food, and lunch in the school cafeteria, which, when read closely, is filled with poignancy: “(Mommy) buys noodles for dinner. My little sister and I eat noodles every day for dinner. I get tired of them. I like to eat lunch at school because we get different stuff every day.” The words are surrounded by impressions of leaves in bright coloring that mimics crayons.
In “Brown Bag Lunch,” Cannell relates the experience of a homeless person borrowing a suit for an interview: “The guy asked me a lot of questions about what I’ve been spending my time on. I thought it was best not to mention my food-fishing hobby.”
“Soap and Tears” is subtle: small print on hues of cream and peach overrun by runs of liquid, it hangs next to the tellers. The story tells of one family’s descent into poverty: “I did everything right. Never showed up late to work, never took drugs, never stole. But I never counted on my little girl getting sick.”
“It’s strange that we live in a world where people are so genuine to do what’s right, but yet so often get left out,” says Cannell of the painting.
Cannell is unabashed about her objectives: “I wanted to try to get people to shift their thinking about homelessness.” Her paintings strive to change perceptions of homeless people and, as illustrated in “Your Kindness Means Everything to Me,” how the smallest acts can make a difference. It reads, in part: “Thank you for holding the door. You restored my faith not only in others, but also myself.”
Cannell’s work will be on display through the end of February.
By CHRIS LaROCHE, Contributing Writer
For copy of actual issue, go to https://www.realchangenews.org/2007/02/21/feb-21-2007-entire-issue