“She was truly a captivating artist,” Peoria resident, Mark Nickerson said, as he highlighted his mother’s artistic passion and flare. “Her colors, textures and style completely enthralled viewers into her work.”
The New York native’s mother, Juliet Holland, was a thriving world-renowned artist, whose creations and career spanned over 40 years.
“Her work has been showcased throughout museums, galleries, corporate offices and private collections around the world,” Nickerson said. “She also made an impact in the Japanese art market, traveling there annually over a 12 year period.”
Holland grew up on the east coast and spent most of her time between her loft in Manhattan on Broadway and Bleecker and a small beach cottage in Westport, Connecticut.
These locations fueled her creativity – her artwork was informed by the idyllic parallel of the ocean eroding the beach and the grittiness of the city.
“She was very connected to the changing landscapes around her,” Nickerson said. “She created her mixed media work from clay, wood, paint, sand, pastels, inks and other found objects.”
Amidst her blossoming career and trips with her family, something began to change.
“Around 2011 or 2012, my sister and I started to notice mom would forget things we just decided or discussed,” Nickerson said. “It took a while, but we started to notice this developing pattern.”
Holland, who was in her mid-70s at the time, pursued her doctor to receive a formal diagnosis. The time was difficult for the family, Nickerson stated. His mother was in denial about her forgetfulness and her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
“My perception changed with one particular event,” Nickerson said. “I was living in Peoria and she was in New York, I spoke to her weekly and while, we were talking she would ask for my address and phone number. That was fair – between our landlines and mobile phones in New York and Illinois, it could be confusing. However, I noticed this would happen with nearly every phone call.”
As Nickerson and his sister Avery, were grappling with the changes in their mother’s behavior and adjustments in their lifestyles, Holland fell and broke her hip, which required surgery to pin her hip.
“The anesthesia had dire effects on her,” Nickerson said. “She was hallucinating and incoherent for weeks. Over time, she did regain much of herself, but was never the same. Her reaction to the anesthesia caused tremors in her hand, and her diagnosis developed into Lewy body dementia with Parkinson’s.”
During this time, Cortland Jessup, Holland’s spouse, became her primary caregiver, managing every aspect of the pair’s lives as Nickerson’s mother’s health began to steadily decline.
“Cortland got in contact with the Alzheimer’s Association in New York,” Nickerson said. “They were great. Steve Klein, who worked for the Association, came to my mother’s apartment a couple of times a week and brought her all around the city.”
“Cortland managed my mom’s care as best she could for five years,” Nickerson said. “However, she was also living with this sense of loss and unfairness. The disease was robbing them of the time they had together.”
The struggle became very difficult for Nickerson, Avery and Jessup. In November 2017, Jessup unexpectedly passed of a sudden brain hemorrhage.
With the help from his sister and their families, Nickerson helped his mother grieve her loss, and moved Holland closer to him in Peoria.
Holland moved into Heartis Village Peoria, where she became a minor celebrity within the facility.
“The quality of care at Heartis was impeccable,” Nickerson said. “They were kind and gracious – my mom became a favorite there.”
Holland was given the opportunity to showcase some of her work in the memory care wing of Heartis.
Though she could no longer discuss her work with attendees at the reception – Holland was beside herself with joy. It meant everything to her, even though she no longer had the ability to explain her process, Nickerson continued.
“One of the guests was the Executive Director of the Contemporary Art Center, William Butler,” Nickerson said. “He liked mom’s work and he offered us the chance to exhibit her work at the center.”
On November 25, 2017, Holland passed after a long battle –leaving her artistic legacy behind.
“After my mom passed, I touched base with Butler to see if there was still an opportunity to put a show of my mom’s work together,” Nickerson said.
As a result, Holland’s work was on display at the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria from March 2 through April 13, 2018. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Holland’s work were donated to the Alzheimer’s Association to further advance the care, support and research for all of those affected by a dementia diagnosis.
“This will not be the last time we will be showing her work,” Nickerson said. “We are in discussions to have another show at an upstate community college.”
Nickerson and his sister still plan to keep their mother’s spirit and legacy alive, by marketing Holland’s work across the country.
“She was truly a unique artist,” Nickerson said. “Her work, in my opinion, is thought-provoking and beautiful; I hope other people will see that too.”
For more information please visit: juliethollandart.com