Two local artists maintain anonymity with masks 

click to enlarge The Holey Kids pose for a photo at a mural they recently finished in the Plaza District, Turesday, March 15, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • The Holey Kids pose for a photo at a mural they recently finished in the Plaza District, Turesday, March 15, 2016.

The Friday night diners at Cheever’s Cafe are pretty, perfumed and fashionably indistinguishable from one another, like the pages of a J.Crew catalog come to life.

The place is full, mostly with young, well-to-do couples. Even though every table is booked, there’s barely more than a low murmur inside. Even out on the patio, where the March wind whips table umbrellas like flags on a ship, conversations are muted and polite. It’s hard to eavesdrop.

A young couple that might as well have on matching “We’re on a First Date” t-shirts sits at the table farthest from the door. Subtly competing with the wind, the young woman tells the seemingly enamored guy about her job, something in sales or public relations.

“When you start, you think it’s gonna be great because you get to do all this traveling,” she says. “Like, I got to go to Puerto Rico for this thing last year. But then you get into it and it’s hard. Like, I have this friend who I— what the fuck?”

The Holey Kids step onto the patio, and the only sound now is the wind.

Extroverted introverts

Regulars on the Oklahoma City arts scene have probably seen them out and about: two skinny, masked, inseparable artists who call themselves Mother and Father Holey. Their work — simple, strange and beautiful — might not be as recognizable as the artists themselves, a jarring anomaly for two people who describe themselves as almost painfully reserved.

“In the beginning, it was more about dropping the sense of self in art,” Father said through the mouth hole of his thin, pink ski mask. “But it honestly kind of became therapeutic for us. It was basically just hiding at first because we’re so introverted, but we found that it’s easier to communicate with people if they can’t see your facial expressions.”

Mother, sporting an identical pink mask, said it also makes it easier for other people to talk to them.

“Sometimes at an art show, people will have to ask, ‘Who’s the artist?’ I think sometimes, people might be … not intimidated, but just unsure whether or not they should approach them or ask them anything,” she said. “Obviously, nobody has to ask who we are at our shows, and because our faces are hidden, I think it makes people feel more comfortable about approaching us and talking to us about our art, which is what we want the focus to be on.”

Social experiment

It’s not difficult to focus on their art. Their paintings, which they always create together — “We’ll forget who painted what,” Mother said — can range from the primary colors and geometric shapes of their new Plaza District mural to detailed illustrations that seem lifted from a coloring book for children who take acid.

They are self-described performance artists, and their work can be simultaneously passive and unsettling.

Take, for example, their 2015 show at Norman’s Dope Chapel.

Dressed in identical white, shapeless cowls with masks of gauze and interlacing strings — think medieval monk meets Hannibal Lecter — the Holey Kids basically sat on the gallery floor all night, mute as stones, and listened to visitors critique their paintings.

“After awhile, it became a kind of meditative state,” Mother said. “They know you’re the artists, but they feel really free about saying whatever they’re thinking if you’re covered up and really still all night, I guess.”

Father, who held a bowl full of “vows of sorts” rolled into scrolls, said it was like viewers forgot the artists were there.

“It was great,” he said. “They’d look at you, then look at the paintings, then look at you. Then after a while, everybody kind of settled into it. We became just these things that were there.”

The contradiction here is obvious, though: Wearing masks might conceal the identities of two shy artists who aren’t wild about talking to strangers, but the headwear also made them easier targets for every side-hugging selfie-seeker in the city.

“It really can be a strange experience. We don’t want to be a spectacle, but it makes us the spectacle,” Mother said of their masked crusade. “But at the same time, we don’t seek out comfort zones, and we want to look at our work as an experiment. We can set the stage and add the right social ingredients, but we can’t control what happens after. That’s what we want our art to be about.”

Father’s pink masks nods up and down in agreement.

“It should be the art that people are seeing,” he said. “There’s enough of us on display already.”

Print Headline: Holey rollers, This art-creating Mother and Father are happiest when nobody recognizes them.
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