Anyone who has landed on the FB page of artist Wayne Hollowell already knows the fun, trippy surrealism that awaits spectators. For those unaware, let me introduce you to this creative force making waves in the art world for his unique style and approach to his craft.
Hollowell’s work has gathered a significant following on social media and the real world, where his whimsical paintings feature the most gay-beloved iconic figures from movies, television shows, and even historical moments.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Hollowell attended the University of NC School of the Arts before moving to Arlington, VA, to pursue his creative passions. Sometime in between, he also lived in NYC, drawing inspiration from Manhattan’s underground culture of vibrant club kids and larger-than-life, big-city personalities.
Among Wayne’s early creative work is an indie misfit-focused independent film reminiscent of early John Waters classics. It was his first foray into filmmaking, and in the lead, he cast his friend —a very young (at the time) RuPaul.
With an affinity for campiness, Wayne’s color-drenched paintings draw you in and brighten even the darkest mood with nostalgia and optimism. He’s garnered a diverse worldwide following of fans who appreciate his unique style, but it’s the gay audience that has most prominently embraced Wayne’s interpretation of favorite moments from Mommie Dearest, Designing Women, The Golden Girls, Liza with a Z, Dynasty, Dallas, and more.
One of Wayne’s more provocative pop culture series is an intriguing collection of paintings featuring dead porn stars. These works are a brilliant combination of memorium, time capsule, and celebration of adult performers who lived on their terms, unapologetically.
Wayne’s ability to capture the essence of pop culture icons through his art is truly remarkable, and his dedication to his craft can be seen on full display in PTown this summer, where his work is on exhibition at the popular Post Office cafe and cabaret. He often spends hours perfecting the details of his endeavors, but thankfully he found some time to sit down with me recently for the following interview:
CA: First, Wayne, how excited are you to have work featured at the Post Office cafe in PTown this summer?
WH: Omg, I am so excited! This is an amazing opportunity for me, and the Post Office Cafe is a great place. It’s an honor. I had done two commissions (a Martha Stewart and a Yentl) for this really fun collector in Provincetown named Jason Tyler. He is friends with Kristiyan Aleksiev, one of the Post Office Cafe owners. He showed him my work, and they contacted me to do 18 paintings that will hang (all for sale) there. It is my perfect audience. I am so thankful to Jason for showing Kris and making it happen. They are both awesome.
CA: You are known for your colorful, abstract paintings of pop culture icons or iconic moments from TV and films. What inspires you to create work highlighting pop culture subjects?
WH: Oh gosh, I have been obsessed with Hollywood and true crime since childhood. I LOVE old movies and TV shows (I am obsessed with Little House on the Prairie (Nellie) and The Facts of Life). I will just wake up at 3 AM thinking of doing a painting of Shelly Winters in “The Poseidon Adventure” or a huge 5ft Squeaky Fromme painting. I have two collectors in Mexico with this fantastic “Poseidon Adventure” themed bathroom, so the Shelly Winters is hanging in there! I get a lot of ideas from the collectors that commission the pieces as they are so funny. I am so glad there is a market for paintings of Delta Burke and Joyce DeWitt because those ladies genuinely inspire me.
CA: Your social media posts show your strong bond with your mother. I love the photos of you taking her to dinner and sharing laughs. Very heartwarming. She seems very supportive. Did your mother encourage you to pursue your path as an artist early in life?
WH: I love my mother so much. I cherish her. She has always believed in me, and I am so thankful she has seen me finally start selling my work. She was a teacher and had heard about the North Carolina School of the Arts having a high school program for art. You had to go and live in the dorm (just like college, but I was only 15). Somehow, I got accepted, and I went. I do not know how she afforded to send me there. NCSA was very intense (you took art classes instead of math and science), but I had the most outstanding teacher in Clyde Fowler. He truly changed my life and opened my eyes to many artists (from Caravaggio to Warhol). I still think of Clyde when I am working on drawings for my pieces. My mom is 84 now, and we have the best time together. We love to talk about cooking, and we watch “Gunsmoke’. We still cannot decide whether Miss Kitty was running a brothel upstairs or not.
CA: Who are some of your other biggest artistic/creative influences?
WH: The artists that inspire me the most are McDermott and McGough. Their paintings are gorgeous and dramatic, and they use old Hollywood as inspiration like mine. I love Warhol. Patrick Angus is one of my favorites. He painted the dancers at the Gaiety in the 1980s. He really captured the sleaziness and the beauty of that place. John Waters inspires me, and the artist Tabboo really is one of my favorites. He is just now finding success, and he does these amazing cityscapes of NYC. He has been painting for decades (like me), and it inspires me to see him in major galleries and being in the NY Times. His work is beautiful.
CA: You also have a unique connection to RuPaul and made a film with him before he became famous. Can you share more about that and how you met him?
WH: When I was 18 and attending art college in Atlanta, I met Ru at this little club called “Weekends.” I wanted to be a film director and make thrillers like “the seduction” with Morgan Fairchild. My daddy had bought me a video camera, and I asked Ru if he wanted to star in the sequel to “Mahogany.” Of course, he did, and we made “Mahogany 2,” which allowed Ru to do everything from modeling to murder.
We both loved montage sequences, so the modeling montage was probably 15 minutes long. The school had a great video editor, so editing them and putting a lush Michel Legrand score over it all was so much fun. We would hang posters all over town and have big premieres at the clubs. When I went to NYU film school, Ru was in my student films, and we made a really good one called “CUPCAKE,” where he and Lahoma Van Zandt (another great star) were two 14th street hookers who take revenge on a punk who steals their purses.
A few months ago, he commissioned a big Judy Garland / Star is Born and a big Cher painting, and it was so much fun talking to him. I am so honored he has 2 of my paintings! He is one of a kind and so nice.
CA: What is your process for creating each painting, and how long does it typically take you to complete an image?
WH: The drawing is always so hard for me. My friend Oscar was my roommate in NYC for ten years in the 90s, and I always send him a pic of the drawing, and he will either say, “YESSSS!!” or “Child are you drinking?” So, once he approves, I move on to the painting part, which is always so much fun. I work pretty fast, but I paint in my studio apartment, so I always look at them and will change colors a lot. The painting kind of tells you when it is done.
CA: From Barbara and Madonna to stars of hit novellas, how do you choose which icons or moments to paint?
WH: I can just be on the train going to work and will start thinking about Linda Gray as SueEllen Ewing drunk on skid row, and all day long, I will be dying to get home and create a painting of her. I love the women that the gay community has embraced and made iconic. The greatest compliment I was ever given was someone saying my website might be banned as it could turn someone gay with all the Liza, Barbra, and Judy paintings, lol.
CA: I was very intrigued by your dead porn stars series. What inspired you to create that?
WH: In NYC in the early 90s, I used to work at this video store in the west village. A new “FALCON” release was like a MARVEL movie coming out today! They had waiting lists, and those queens would get FURIOUS if the copy of “FULLFilled” had not been returned. Anyway, I loved the glossy box covers; the stars were so gorgeous (Ryan Idol, Joey Stefano, Jon Vincent). They really were “STARS” back then. I mean, “Falcon” was the “MGM” of porn. I loved Roman Ragazzi, and I read he had died by suicide. I could not believe it. I started researching other stars I had loved and found that so many died these tragic deaths at young ages. I did the series of paintings and put the cause of death on each one. It’s so sad how so many of them barely made it to 30.
CA: The word “successful” is subjective, especially when assessing ourselves. That said, do you consider yourself a successful artist now that you have commissions and you’re exhibiting across the country?
WH: I painted for so long, and it just seemed like nobody ever saw them but me – it used to be so hard before social media to get your work seen. In 2013 I had a show at this tiny gallery in the east village in New York City. I was so excited because I sold two paintings. But the most remarkable thing from that show was meeting celebrity trainer Isaac Calpito of Torch’d, walking by when we were hanging the pieces. That night he discovered my art and championed me for the last ten years. I have had so many wonderful collectors commission works because he got the word out. He has been so amazing and always believed in me.
It has been a long road, but during the lockdown, I prayed to God to please make me into what I was truly created to be – I just started manifesting. It was like a miracle how people just started commissioning pieces. I am so thankful — even THEE DELTA BURKE herself contacted me and commissioned a Suzanne Sugarbaker painting for her home. I suppose I will genuinely feel like a success when I can quit my day job and paint full time, but it’s just been fantastic all the doors that have opened in the last three years. I know it is both my and my mama’s prayers being answered. I just love being an artist
CA: What advice would you give to other emerging artists?
WH: Just never stop making your art.