“I trained as a swimmer. I used to swim 16 hours a week, being surrounded by bodies all the time. The anatomy, the muscle sculpture, everything about the face, the body and the water is still in my work.”
Makeup & creative direction by Holly Silius for Vogue Brazil 2016
Holly Silius’ work responds to traditional, restricted representations of the human body from European art history. For Silius, subverting these ideals is the essence of her practice. Silius’ body of work explores the human form, both raw and adorned, from makeup, body cast stone sculptures to masks and wearable body jewellery. The duality of raw and adorned mirrors Silius’ background in fine art and SFX. Her art practice finds its inspiration from the study of morphology and the wider body of her work centres around her fascination with the human body and the way it serves as a canvas for experimentation.
Makeup, face & body cast sculptures in stone for Purple Magazine by Holly Silius with muse Oceana (photo - Amanda Charchian) 2020
Private and commercial commissions of her work have led to collaborations with Prada, Gucci, Miu Miu, Apple, Yves Tumor, Surfbort, Yeezy, KKW Beauty, and Katie Grand’s The Perfect Magazine. Silius’ previous limited edition jewellery series have also been sold across prestigious luxury sites including Net-a-Porter, Harvey Nichols and more.
Body cast sculptures in stone & acrylic paint of Kim Kardashian for KKW Fragrance by Holly Silius (photo - Vanessa Beacroft) 2021
In 2021 Silius produced series of bodycasts in collaboration with gender queer actor and writer Lio Mehiel, inspired by their top surgery. The evocative bodycasts and photo series titled Phantom Feel explored and reimagined traditional figurative sculpture through a lens of gender-queer and transmasculine body. The series was chosen for a major public art exhibition PATRIARCHY RIP curated by Save Art Space and Pussy Riot across 9 states in the US. Silius’ series received critical acclaim across key international arts and mainstream media including The Art Newspaper, artnet, Al Jazeera, Dazed and FAD Magazine amongst others.
Holly Silius by Zoey Grossman 2021
THE QU & A
What are 3 values that you wish to mediate through your work?
A lot of my art, without even trying, is to create awareness around things that people aren’t necessarily educated about. I’d love to have some depth in a piece of work. I'm trying to think about who I am working with, how something will suit them, and how other people are going to view the work. Is it going to create emotion?
I love creating things that are beautiful. Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder. To me it's imperfection. I love scars, things that aren’t quite perfect. I love it when people have a little spot or blemish and turn that into a beauty mark, or cover it up, or keep it as it is. Every time I make something, there is this element of how it is going to turn out, as the material is organic. There is only a certain amount of manipulation that you can do, so you just have to wait and see it. It’s exciting.
Creating emotion - for people to actually feel something. With the trans sculptures I wanted people to try and understand that these bodies are just as important as theirs. The sculptures of gender normative bodies that were made hundreds and hundreds years ago are just as important as these are now and for it to be celebrated. It’s important for that community to feel that they are being represented. It's powerful and beautiful. I want to support a community I am not part of through my art.
Dani Miller Silicone face piece by Holly Silius 2021
Surfbort album cover photography shot on film by Holly Silius 2021
What are 3 relevant problems that you wish to solve through your work?
I feel so incredibly guilty about waste. There is so much waste in the beauty industry and in making sculptures. Especially in America, everything is wrapped in plastic, everything is takeaway. It’s really hard not to be a hypocrite. I’m vegan, I have a rescue dog, I try my best with recycling. I really try but I still live in a cosmopolitan city… If you can do your part, you can raise awareness. If you try to change certain things, that's already commendable.
Aggressive Activism vs. Education
There is a fine line when you are trying to inform without being annoying. I don’t want to be really aggressive because I don’t think it helps. But if you can raise awareness and educate people, that is a different thing. I talk to some friends who only have vegan friends and I ask how and why and they manage to persuade them which I think is AMAZING.
When I'm working as a makeup artist, I have to be aware that the person might have sensitive skin, or might have had a bad day. I’ve heard that people get offended when models or actresses ask them to use certain things, because they think they know better… But it’s their face and I like to listen to what works for them and I always learn and care.
Makeup for Ericka Linder for Elle france by Holly Silius (photo - Ben Hassett) 2022
‘Ink Bath’ Photography shot on film by Holly Silius with muse Fiona. 2020
Prints available to buy
How can Creatives improve their impact on the world by creating intentionally?
The intention for a lot of people is to make money. There is also no shame in that. With my art, it's not a vanity project anymore. I want to make a living out of it but also, I can’t help it, but I want to do something that has meaning to it.
I have a backlog of ideas that I started to create many years ago when I finished uni. When I was at uni, we were constantly creating. Then, I went into working on film and TV, and I stopped creating to a certain point where it got frustrating. I was like “I’m just going to make a library in my head, keep it all there, and at some point I’m going to be able to use these ideas.” And one-by-one, I used so many different ideas. There is a lot of intention behind my work. As a makeup artist, you are not on the top of the list of the pecking order. You kind of have to wait for your turn. So, I just had to wait to put these ideas out there.
As you get older, you start to understand different worlds, and the commercial wasn’t my world. However, it’s really exciting and nice that these commercial people want to use creative people like me to create creativity, and pay for it.
‘Lilian’ Photography series shot on film using 3D printed wearable body sculptures by Holly Silius with muse Fiona. 2022.
Prints available to buy
‘Lilian’ Photography series shot on film using 3D printed wearable body sculptures by Holly Silius with muse Vanessa. 2022.
Prints available to buy
How can Creative Leaders show a more realistic example of trial and error?
The element of mystery is amazing for people who just want to view. One of the reasons I didn’t want to work on film anymore is because the element of mystery disappeared. I was watching a film after I worked on a movie which was hell, and all I could think of was “Oh, they shot this from that angel… I bet it was freezing… I bet they were shooting fifteen hours a day… What did they get fed… Oh, that’s another camera angle… How long did that take…” I just stopped watching the film. To me, the element of mystery is really magical. It’s beautiful and important that we keep it.
'Lilian' 3d renders of wearable body sculpture series by Holly Silius. 2021.
Available to buy
How can we become more transparent with each other?
It’s about communication. It’s about knowing what you want, and the boundaries that you are able to go towards in order to be direct. I don’t like being told what I need to do but I like being in a team, creating things together. Being challenged. I am very receptive to being told what to do by someone that I really respect.
'Lilian’ 3d renders of wearable body sculpture series by Holly Silius. 2021.
Available to buy
Stories by Holly Silius about her recent projects
Angels sculpture series
In this project I’m body casting trans people. When I was initially approached to do this project, I felt like I wanted to do something significant. No one has made stone sculptures of trans people. It's a real body-cast. I worked with Lio Mehiel on the first sculpture. You could see the scars, it was really beautiful. Another four pieces went into the exhibition for the Outfest DGA in West Hollywood. I art directed the shoot with the models and pieces, and Lio was doing the casting and production.
It’s really humbling to work with people that I have no idea about, to show what it feels like to try to navigate a world that is quite exclusive. All sculptures are different stories, different bodies. When we sell the pieces, a part of the money goes to support trans charities. Lio is also about to start a non-profit organization, so that they can fund people directly.
‘Ancient Futures’ Body Cast sculpture series & Art Direction by Holly Silius (Photo by Liam Woods and produced by Lio Mehiel) with muse Rain Valdez. 2022
‘Ancient Futures’ Body Cast sculpture series & Art Direction by Holly Silius (Photo by Liam Woods and produced by Lio Mehiel) with muse Lio Mehiel & Sydney Mae Diaz. 2022
Palm Springs Museum Collaboration with Mr. Wash
Mr. Wash was incarcerated for life for a nonviolent drug offence that he didn’t commit. After 21 years, he was pardoned in 2016, he became this incredible artist whilst inside. He has some wildly amazing skills, he knows how to make chandeliers, he knows how to make women’s stiletto heels. His skill level is so refined, and most of it he developed in prison. From my viewpoint he paints realist surreal paintings, it’s like a mix of these two worlds. He approached me asking if I could cast his face for this project which they wanted to do at the Palms Springs Museum. We met, and I cast his face. It was really interesting to have this experience with someone who has been through so much. Just working with people that you might not come into contact with normally is really important.
The piece I made was handed over to Mr Wash as a four headed raw stone sculpture, he finished it off adorned with cacti and paint, I was super happy with it, it was such an honor to build this friendship.
Mr. Wash & Holly Silius collaboration sculpture at The Palm Springs Museum. 2022
Robert Pattinson GQ Cover
There was a lot of direction, but also a lot of freedom. I love both. The GQ team was amazing and Jack Bridgland the photographer was very precise about each set up which I admire and they were so open and very respectful with everyone’s ideas. With the makeup I got to do, it was like going back in time to everything that I learned. I didn’t even use a dirt palette, I just used my eyeshadows and regular makeup for a lot of the looks. I put the dirt and blood and sweat on as if Rob was putting it on to make it realistic. Just like it was on film and TV: it has to be as if it was real. But in reality, it was a fashion shoot, more stylized. I love going back and forth in between these worlds of fantasy and reality. Rob was very inclusive on all aspects of the looks, he had strong direction and input but also very trusting with us.
Makeup & SFX for Robert Pattinson for GQ (photo by Jack Bridgland) 2022
Makeup & SFX for Robert Pattinson for GQ (director Gina Gizella)
Creative Leaders to look up to:
Creative leaders I look up to wow.. so many I want to give credit to them all!
Jim Jarmusch, Danny Boyle, Baz Luhrman, John Waters, Marina Abramovich, Divine, Thom Yorke, Nicholas Jaar, Graham Hancock, Stanislav Szukalski, Andy Warhol, Frank Auerbach, Georgia O’Keeffe, Peter Beard, Isabella Blow, Dani Miller, Ryan McGinley, Melissa Maouris, Steward Gilchrist, Tamara de Lempicka, Collier Schorr, Bjork, Kim Gordon, Franz Marc, Andrew Thomas Huang, Micheal Gondry, James T Merry, Joaquin Phoenix, Boyan Slat, Paula Radcliffe, Simone Biles.
A Creative Practice:
The creative practice of Marina Abromovich is for sure the leader of this, she takes on so much trial and error, endurance and pain, power and emotions and the struggle for her art. I can't wait to read her new book by Ossian Ward.
This interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.
Written and Edited by Julia Horvath
Image Courtesy of Holly Silius