Professor Profile: Professor Holly Fischer
Professor Holly Fischer is the Coordinator of the Ceramics Studio and an Assistant Professor of Art. She teaches various ceramic and sculpture classes, as well as a Decoding Images: Gender in Art & Advertising class. Professor Fischer is a Meredith College alumna from the Class of 1999 and is well known for her sculpture work that explores paradoxes inherent in perceptions of femininity and her warm, vulnerable classroom environment.
Professor Fischer remembers a key moment during her sophomore year on the first day of her sculpture class. She was taught by Professor Lisa Pearce, who is still an Associate Professor of Art at Meredith today. Professor Pearce screened the film “Camille Claudel” during class. Professor Fischer stated, “‘Camille Claudel’ has a tragic story, but I connected to the intense passion portrayed in the film, and I was deeply frustrated that her gender held her back.” In that moment, she knew that helping to “shape and contribute to a contemporary movement of female sculptors” felt like a calling.
Professor Fischer grew up in a creative environment. Her mother was a fiber artist, and her father was a skilled woodworker. Creating things with her hands was one of Fischer’s favorite childhood pastimes, which led her to earning her BA in Studio Art at Meredith in 1999. During her time, she primarily focused on sculpture in a variety of media including clay, stone, welding and cast paper. Professor Fischer then took two years off and fulfilled public and private art commissions and also worked part time in the North Carolina Museum of Art educational department.
She later completed a three-year MFA program at the University of Texas at Austin, focusing on ceramic sculpture. She took many women and gender studies classes, which helped inform her work as an artist. She taught for a year at Savannah College of Art and Design, received a funded fellowship and artist residency at the Worcester Center for Crafts and then in a sabbatical replacement position in ceramics at the School for the Museum of Art in Boston. In 2008, she finally came back to Meredith College to teach part-time. In 2018, Professor Fischer stepped into her current role in the Art Department.
As an instructor, Professor Fischer is dedicated to creating a positive and welcoming environment. She strives for her enthusiastic energy to be contagious, and has found that this establishes the necessary trust needed for a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship between teacher and student. Fischer believes that focusing on what individual students need to be inspired and successful is extremely important. She carefully plans the curriculum in her courses to be accessible and challenging, accommodate a range of learning styles and make her expectations clear from the very beginning of the semester.
Professor Fischer understands that the unexpected is bound to happen, and she tries to maintain a nimble approach that shows students it's okay when things don't go as planned. Professor Fisher “hopes to help [her] students gain deeper self-awareness, confidence, passion and the belief that they can make a difference through the way they conduct their lives.” She also explained that she hopes students leave her class with a more resilient form of strength and a willingness to take risks, understanding that “failure” is an opportunity for growth. She hopes they learn that they each “have a unique voice worthy of being heard, and that they have many tools for self-expression and communication.”
Professor Fischer explained that the inspiration for her art has always been a reflection on life experience. She stated that she explores “what it means to be a woman, an artist and a partner within our culture” and that “the dichotomies surrounding concepts of femininity and [her] personal struggle to be comfortable in [her] skin inspire much of [her] work.” She said that art-making is an expiration of her fears and desires—private thoughts made visible and tangible.
That personal connection with her work is critical to her creative process. Each piece is a confession and celebration of her growth. As personal as Professor Fischer’s work is, once the work is made, the aspect she values most is the new life and meaning it absorbs through new interaction. In her view, “each sculpture is born as an expression of something I’m feeling and experiencing, but it’s important to me that the work retains enough ambiguity that viewers can read their own story in the forms.” Hearing how others connect to the work and how they see themselves in it is meaningful to her and hugely inspiring. She loves hearing that her sculptures speak to someone.
Professor Fischer is also inspired by the dangerous and alluring beauty of carnivorous plants and poisonous underwater creatures. “These seductive and deadly forms readily become metaphors for our culture’s inherent mistrust of female empowerment and common fears regarding gender fluidity and overt sexuality,” she added. Her work challenges binary restrictions that create an artificial separation between feminine and masculine qualities. Professor Fischer seeks to embrace dualities through the morphing of seemingly incongruous attributes to form new identities that are at once familiar and strange, mysterious and beguiling. She hopes this subtle tension between viewer and object will encourage observers to question the nature of their fears and desires and to contemplate assumptions regarding beauty, gender and sexuality.
In terms of interests outside of sculpting, Professor Fischer has a substantial plant collection. At one point, she counted over a hundred potted plants in her home, and that number has grown and expanded into the ceramics studio at Meredith. She especially loves succulents, orchids and carnivorous plants, as they inspire much of her artwork. She has been a yoga instructor for over 12 years and strongly values the connection between mind, body and breath. The lessons her yoga teachers share have helped to manage chronic anxiety and depression. Fischer is a cat mom to a beautiful and sweet four-year-old rescue kitty named Stella Bella Boo Bop. Professor Fisher explained that “she makes my day when she runs to greet me when I get home.”
By Evelyn Summers, Senior Copy Editor