Jammie Holmes (portrait by Lauren Withrow)
Jammie Holmes "I Have a Dream," 2021
Jammie Holmes "The Illusion," 2021
Jammie Holmes "Fred Hampton," 2022, The Dr. Gregory Shannon Family Collection, Houston (Courtesy the Artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen)
Jammie Holmes "Box Fan Heroes," 2019
Jammie Holmes "Living in the Shadows," 2021
Jammie Holmes "Lefty," 2023
Jammie Holmes "Just Like Your Father," 2022
On the occasion of artist Jammie Holmes’ first solo museum exhibition — organized and on view from August 11 to November 26, 2023, at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth — PaperCity tapped ArtNews Top 200 Collector Lester Marks to pen a primer on the Dallas artist who has catapulted into the national spotlight, why his work matters, and how it figures prominently in Marks’ own vaunted collection in Houston.
Reader alert from Lester Marks: I’m not writing this as a critique of Jammie Holmes’ painting. I am writing from the perspective of an unadulterated fan. Yes, I flat-out adore the work. And, for that matter, I’m pretty wild about Jammie, the person.
I’ve been a lifelong collector, and my collection is not so much about the paintings on my walls as it is about the meaning and message contained within the works. Thus, I’ve always gravitated toward art that is didactic, helping to spread a message of how we can all better live and love together — all races, all genders, all people.
I’ve not found an artist who can do that better than Jammie Holmes. Much has been written about Jammie’s backstory, the big guy from the little Louisiana town of Thibodaux, which was known in the Antebellum period for its slave-run sugarcane plantations and its infamous history and was the site of one of the bloodiest labor battles in the country when, in 1887, 60-some Black cane workers were massacred for going on strike.
Jammie, who lives in Dallas, was acutely aware of that history, which in part continues to this day. Yet, what Jammie brings to his very personal work is not anger but enlightenment, showing us the way things were and are, and offering a deep look into a world permeated by prejudice. Jammie does this by painting tableaux. Rod Stewart’s song “Every Picture Tells a Story” precisely describes Jammie’s style and why I fell in love with it. He can tell a story with his oil pastels like nobody’s business. The works are glorious and majestic, yet they pull on my heartstrings to the point of breaking. Jammie’s work is asking the question: “Why does it have to be this way?” My answer is: “It doesn’t.” The future is up to us. I’ve been lucky enough to acquire seven of Jammie’s paintings, and I treasure each one for its message and bravery.