Fran Holland

Fran Holland is an artist living in Berkeley, CA, who has turned his obsession with mathematics into richly complex, compelling, beautiful paintings and drawings. He has worked as a carpenter, a museum exhibit designer, a musical instrument inventor and builder, and an elementary school teacher, and he cofounded and ran a community workshop called the Tinkers Workshop in Berkeley, California.  He currently works as an electrician. 

Fran was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1964.  He is the second of four brothers.  His father Fran Sr. was likewise the second of four brothers.  His mother Mary Ellen was the second of four siblings as well. He has always been caught in the web of numbers, series, and patterns.  They have been the oft-ruminated cud of his fancy, and he found them in the weave of his blankets,  the strange darkness of his closed eyes, the rhythm of stair-climbing, and the prismatic magic of his tears.  He makes things. Fran first distinguished himself by failing at most forms of institutionally structured learning. Over time, chance encounters with informal teachers and old books catalyzed his suspicion that understanding was both possible and nourishing.  The modern “best practices” that inspired much of his formal schooling were perhaps not the best for him.  He has since been guided in his growth by developing alternative personal systems, often adapted from more ancient sources.  His visual art has grown out of systems that he has re-discovered and developed to visually represent and explore mathematics, and to understand, compose, and play music. Many of his paintings reflect his involvement with the mathematics practiced before numerals, when a particular number was represented by a quantity of counters, such as beans or rocks.  “1” can be represented by one counter, “10” by ten counters, etc.   In this manner, a number’s appearance, and its relations with other numbers, becomes more concrete, less hidden or abstract.

For a deeper explanation of his work, please see our blog post "Fran Holland Explains His Paintings."