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The F Stops Here

Mary Holmes
Mary Holmes is a working artist, one of the founding faculty of UCSC and the school's professor emerita of art history.

Mary Holmes

A leisurely tour through Mary Holmes' studio and the spectacular grounds surrounding it on this windswept ridge high above Soquel leaves no doubt that the artist lives and breathes the hereafter with every stroke of her brush and turn of her sculpting tools. Her back yard houses not one but three chapels--sanctuaries, really--each cradling artwork that celebrates the Spirit. Biblical imagery intertwines with Hindu gods and goddesses, interspersed with icons that might be found in Mayan temples. Century-old tombstones dot the landscape outside the chapels. Far from being macabre, they lend a peaceful touch to an already serene landscape broken only by the sounds of mourning doves and the gentle lowing of Holmes' sheep and goats.

Holmes can only visit the chapel with the aid of two canes, and her remarkably talented hands are bent and twisted by arthritis. Seated comfortably in her dining room, she does not hesitate to voice her thoughts about what might be next. "Why aren't there more ghosts?" Holmes wonders, then supplies her reason. "Whatever's going on [after death] is so interesting that they forget about this," she reasons, waving her hand to encompass the here and now.

Although Holmes describes herself as a Trinitarian, she doubts Heaven is all it's cracked up to be--at least by religious folks. "Most visions of Heaven are about singing praises to God for eternity," she says, then laughs. "Most people couldn't stand to do it for five minutes."

As for services? "I'm very traditional," says Holmes, who is Episcopalian. "And tradition satisfies most of the people most of the time." She will expect readings from the Book of Common Prayer because "liturgy is something that gives a combined meaning for a whole lot of people."

There may be some artistic justice that a traditional end would follow such an untraditional life.

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From the Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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