Holly Hazelton

Artist Statement

“Tierratrauma” is a term for the deep emotional pain felt from negative environmental change. With the derecho being one of many increasingly intense natural disasters to come as a result of climate change, the experience of loss of sense of place will become an increasingly universal and familiar feeling. How does one deal with place-based grief? Holly Hazelton’s derecho paintings use memory as a starting point to bring back a sense of place to a place that no longer make sense without the trees. Through the hazy and disorienting qualities of personal grief and the physical intangibility of the void, she rediscovers the trees’ presence through the layers of her paintings as a means to mourn, honor, testify, and memorialize the lives of the lost trees.


  • David Brody (Painting + Drawing)
  • Ann Gale (Painting + Drawing)
  • Philip Govedare (Painting + Drawing)
  • Zhi Lin (Painting + Drawing)
  • Helen O’Toole (Painting + Drawing)


Read the interview with Holly Hazelton by Krista Schoening.

Holly Hazelton finds her subject matter in the human-marked landscape. Her works are paintings for the Anthropocene era, in which humans as a species can no longer ignore the traces that their actions leave on the environment. Her recent works were made in response to an extreme weather event — the August 2020 derecho storm that devastated her hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On site in the aftermath of the storm, Hazelton made carefully observed studies of destroyed trees — ink on paper paintings with a meticulous execution that suggests, at first glance, cool-headed observation of these shattered arboreal bodies. However, her use of oak gall ink made from the remains of a beloved oak lost from the yard of her childhood home suggests Hazelton’s deep emotional engagement with this subject matter. In that sense, these works have much in common with the once-popular genre of death-bed portraiture — a last chance to fix in memory the countenance of a cherished person. Hazelton is explicit about her relationship to these trees — she sees them as beings, as friends, and as lost members of her community; these are works of mourning. We see her step away from the scene of immediate destruction, instead reflecting on the scarred landscape through the lens of memory in the works Rememory of Absence and Rememory of Presence. The dissolution of form and the transparency of the paint film in these paintings distance them from the documentary feeling of the earlier works, with their detailed renderings of violence — a visual journey from a fixed event towards an open response. As the work moves away from empiricism and towards imagination, it opens up to more universal readings, connecting it to the global climate crisis. As Hazelton herself notes, though her work is about losses of specific trees and her personal experience of mourning, “with the derecho, wildfires, and other natural disasters happening more frequently and with increasing intensity, there’s no one, yet everyone to blame for their part in climate change. We all are implicated, yet no one can be held accountable.”

— Krista Schoening


Holly Hazelton is a visual artist who grew up knowing, loving, and connecting with the trees and landscape of Iowa. In August of 2020, a storm known as a derecho swept across the Midwest and destroyed 70% of the beloved and iconic tree canopy in her hometown of Cedar Rapids, spurring her investigation into the role trees played in her formative and current experiences of landscape space. Through the lenses of loss, grief, and memory, her current work explores her changed relationship to the blasted landscape and the empty spaces the trees leave behind. 



  • 2021, de Cillia Teaching with Excellence Award, University of Washington, School of Art + Art History + Design, Seattle, WA
  • 2021, Ingham Award, University of Washington, School of Art + Art History + Design, Seattle, WA
  • 2020 / 2021, Graduate Teaching Assistantship in Drawing, School of Art + Art History + Design, Seattle, WA


  • 2020, Notes on the Unseen, Jacob Lawrence Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2020, Still Waters Run Deep, Sand Point Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2020, Things Behind the Sun, Sand Point Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2018, Juxtapose, Raygun Art Gallery, Cedar Rapids, IA
  • 2017, Plein Air, Pearson Lake Art Center, Weaver & McIlrath Galleries, Okoboji, IA


  • Master of Fine Arts, University of Washington, Seattle, 2021
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts, Iowa State University