Leaven newcomer’s painting talents are on display.
by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — By day, advertising coordinator Julie Holthaus pours herself into her ink-and-paper profession at The Leaven.
But off the job, her small-town upbringing, Catholic faith and artistic passion play out through a different medium: usually oil or acrylic paint on canvas.
In fact, a few of Holthaus’ paintings are on public display at the 2010 Gallery in the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, Mo.
“I think art is meant to be a light in the world, and I basically want to bring appreciation to the good around us,” said Holthaus.
Leaven editor Father Mark Goldasich was surprised — and impressed — to learn of Holthaus’ artistic side.
“I’m so used to journalists painting pictures with words that when I found out Julie paints pictures with, well, paints, it blew me away,” he said. “Since the extent of my artistic ability doesn’t go much beyond stick figures, I’m in awe of talented people like Julie who can translate what they see onto a canvas.”
A native of St. Benedict, Holthaus incorporated her rural roots in one of the paintings on display at the gallery.
Entitled “1912 American Farm House,” the piece depicts the house in which she grew up, the family history of which runs deep. Her great-grandfather Frederick Holthaus was the first to live there. Her grandfather Aloy Holthaus grew up there, and so did her father Arlyn Holthaus.
It’s where she took some of her first steps as an artist.
“My parents were probably my first creative influence,” said Holthaus. “My dad and I would draw and build things like birdhouses together. My wonderful mom was more of a stick figure artist, but always very loving and encouraging.”
Her art often features structures — churches, barns and even the familiar Anderson Hall at her alma mater, Kansas State University in Manhattan — and she describes architectural art as “art expressing art.”
It was the architectural features of her work that resonated with Tim Morrison, gallery director, when it came to the young artist.
“Just the perspectives and the architectural work is what catches my eye for those pieces,” said Morrison. “They’re very detailed.”
The gallery likes to highlight local artists, as well as artists from different parts of the world.
Holthaus’ Anderson Hall painting is one of those displayed at 2010 Gallery, as is a recently completed rendition of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver.
“I’m drawn to old architecture for the unique history that often goes with it,” said Holthaus.
Her home parish, St. Mary Church in St. Benedict, has inspired much of her work. She even displays a photograph she took of the church’s interior in her office at The Leaven.
Renowned for its architecture and artwork, St. Mary has been voted one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas Art and boasts a number of treasured pieces.
“My favorites are the 14 huge oil paintings and the intricate statues of the saints along the nave of the church,” said Holthaus. “The settlers took great efforts in building beautiful churches and homes. They put their faith in action quickly, and we continue to benefit from their work.”
If Holthaus’ paintings seem very lifelike, there’s a reason for that.
“I base my work on photographs I’ve taken, so it is more of a realism style of art,” she said. “I use the photo as a guide and sort of freelance where I see fit.”
Holthaus keeps her eyes open to the beauty of life in the world around her.
One of her acrylic paintings features a Charolais cow.
“I grew up on a cattle ranch, so I do enjoy doing livestock art,” she said. “There is an integrity and salt-of-the-earth-type humility that often accompanies working the land and working with livestock. And art can be a way to give that a greater voice.
“Hard work goes into great steaks!” she added.
Holthaus took art classes in high school and college and painted during the summers in college.
She continues to paint and hopes to one day use her art to give back to the community.
Holthaus says art and beauty are all around us, and draws inspiration from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who said: “Art is like a door opened to the infinite, opened to a beauty and a truth beyond the every day. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, urging us upward.”