Self-portrait on the steps of Marie Laveau's home, 1020 Rue St. Ann, French Quarter, 2017 

Alan Mandell as Estragon in WAITING FOR GODOT at the Taper, 2017 

THE BISCUIT PALACE, Bourbon and Dumaine, New Orleans; painted in 2017 from my 2008 photo taken while staying here doing THE MILK TRAIN DOESN'T STOP HERE ANYMORE at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival

 

Penny and Barry at Bayou St. John, New Orleans, painted from my 2010 photo in 2014

Monet's Garden in Giverny, painted on commission in 2017 from a photo by my cousin Roxanne Kasten 

For Gany, 2017 

"Jacksonless Square," 2017 

"This is THEIR Time:  Jackson Square at Night," painted in 2017 from my photo taken in 2007 

"Uncle Louie:  Jus' Gettin' By in the Quarter," 2017

From a photo by my cousin Roxanne Kasten 

THE BIRTHPLACE OF JAZZ: Preservation Hall, (and Pat O'Brien's on the left), New Orleans; painted from my photograph, February 2017 

Barrracks and Decatur, New Orleans, painted from my 2008 photo in 2017

Tomb of the Widow Paris (Marie Laveau), St. Louis Cemetery #1, NOLA; painted from my 2008 photo in 2017 

THE GRIEVING CHILDREN OF METAIRIE CEMETERY, painted from my 2007 photo 

JOEY ARIAS: STILL MISBEHAVIN', 2017 

TENACIOUS TENN: Tennessee Williams at home at 1431 Duncan St., Key West; circa 1957

Leon Katz, 1919-2017 

Teddy Antolin, 1947-2016 

View down Bourbon past Dumaine from our Bourbon Orleans garret window, 2017 

SPRING STORM, St. Louis Cemetery #1; painted in 2017 from my photo, 2008

BREEZE ON THE BAYOU, 2017 

Tomb of Josie Arlington, Metairie Cemetary; photo 2007, painted in 2017 

Joni Mitchell for Salon City Magazine, 2008 

For Gany, 2014 

"High Desert Conservationism," 2017 

"Destinations," inspired by Uta Hagen, 1967 

URBAN COWBOY: Alvin and Hugh in his Sunset Ranch days at the top of Mt. Hollywood; 2017 

For Gany, 2015 

591 Hillcrest Avenue, Elmhurst, Illinois; commissioned by Laurie Vonder Gardner, 2017 

Oscar Wilde, painted for the cover of our world premiere of Leon Katz' BEDS program, 2000 

"Scott Free," 1995 

Boys at the Barre, 2017 

Sherry, 1967 

"Victor & Travis," SF, 1973 

Victor, 1971 

Scott, 1995 

Victor, 1972

"Man with Fish," 1967, from my linoleum block print from 1965 

And in the beginning:  Art from before age 18... 

In a life class over a summer at the Art Institute of Chicago, age 14 

Themed national contest winner of some kind, age 16 

My first oil: Rudolf Nureyev, who inspired me in such a SPECIAL way, age 17

The inimitable Hermione Gingold during our time in OH DAD, POOR DAD... , age 19

 

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER, who has always been known for grandiloquent exaggeration, might possibly say he began painting—or thinking about doing so—in the womb, but the toxicity of the components in a tube of oil paint might prove that claim as preposterous as it sounds. Still, there is the possibility that his mother was immune to such a malady, as Travis’ earliest memories involve sitting in rapt awe at his mother’s side as her graceful hands created the most astonishing watercolors he has to this day ever seen created.

By age 8, the time Travis was beginning his career as an actor, he was also painting himself and, by age 13 and with his mother’s blessing, became the youngest person ever accepted to study life drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago. Through his early years, he won numerous scholastic art awards and subsequently two extremely successful showings of his work were mounted while still in his teen years, first at a well-known gallery on Chicago’s Rush Street at age 16 and another in the Old Town area at age 18. By that time, some of his canvases were already gracing the walls of, among others, Katharine Hepburn and Phyllis Wilbourn, Joni Mitchell, Ginger Rogers, Jerome Robbins, and Tennessee Williams, who also in turn painted Travis at the ripe age of 14.

Travis’ early works, surely inspired by his mother, were watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings, many mentored by abstract artist Eleanor King Hookum until noted Chicago artist, the late Barbara Lewis, guided his hand into the world of oil painting. His first oil was a portrait of Rudolf Nureyev, a canvas the dancer quite vocally made clear he totally despised.

Over the years, Travis’ passion for art dwindled in the shadow of his careers in acting and the music business, something not only due to having no time to paint but running out of space to display his work in his collection-obsessed home and also running out of friends with empty walls to gift with his artwork. One of the things that led him back to the studio was the encouragement of the late legendary playwright/scholar Dr. Leon Katz, who fell in love with his work and, when mounting his play Beds in 2000, asked Travis to create a portrait of Oscar Wilde to adorn the program for the play’s debut, a production in which Travis appeared as the dying literary genius.

Between that new beginning and other factors, including a newly discovered passion for photographing and painting the colorful scenes and equally colorful denizens of New Orleans’ French Quarter, as well as the lack of roles being offered him in his later years unless a script called for an erring priest or mentally-challenged adult, Travis again took up his brushes and started to express himself with the passion he had fostered in his youth.

Thanks to the advent of social media, his work became available to a whole new audience not only incredibly complimentary and encouraging towards Travis’ ever-fluctuating confidence in himself as an artist, but willing to shell out a few ducats to help finance his sorrowful lack of retirement savings. In 2017, the rights to several of his paintings of N'awlins street scenes were secured to feature as part of the set design of "Queen Sugar," creator/director Ava DuVernay's NAACP Award-winning TV series co-produced by Oprah Winfrey for her OWN Network.

Interestingly enough, today, when Travis creates a new canvas, his paint-splattered hands bring him a great sense of contentment and a long-missed sense of being in the right place, as his own hands so remind him of his mother’s as he sat quietly all those years ago at her side watching her create magic right before his very eyes.

One thing Travis always intended to do was paint his dear friend and mentor Leon Katz and, on January 23, 2017 when Leon passed at age 97, Travis felt as though he missed an opportunity to do so and share with him, through his art, his love and appreciation for Leon’s intelligence, his wit, his passion to be an outsider in the best possible way, and above all, his enormous heart. Travis will always be sad Leon never lived to see the portrait he soon after created that graced the program cover for Dr. Katz's memorial at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles in June, 2017, but hopes the great man would be proud.