Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist

Jim Holley with his metal art creation
Photo credit: Oli Robbins

The whimsical and functional metal art of Jim Holley

Signpost featured artist

The welded garden: Jim Holley’s sculptural creations

—Oli Robbins

You may have snagged a sculpture from, or shared a quick chat with, Jim and Nancy Holley on a warm Saturday at the Placitas Flea Market. They’ve been loyal vendors at the Merc’s market (hosted by the Placitas Community Library) for years, offering locals a bevy of sculptural creations for home and garden. Jim is the metal-working sculptor, while Nancy contributes visual suggestions and assists in selling. Jim’s whimsical, swaying, and minimalist steel “ladies in the wind” are his most popular items at present, though he also fashions pieces that incorporate solar lighting and cast large-scale projections of steel cutouts at nighttime.

Jim and Nancy have inhabited their current Placitas home—an old homestead in Placitas West—for two years. They previously lived in Rio Rancho and spent many years in Florida where Jim dealt primarily with stained glass, creating locally-inspired, three-dimensional tiki bars and palm trees. There’s never been a time in Jim’s life when he was not surrounded by, or making, art of some kind, but he’s never devoted all of his time to it. He spent 42 years in the computer business, for nine of those years working as a Microsoft consultant for IBM. He currently splits his time in three—part sculptor, part home remodeler, part landscape inspector for a commercial landscape management company. He and Nancy can also be found spending time with their many Shitzus—a dog they used to breed.

Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Jim spent most of his formative years traveling across states and countries with his Air Force dad. He attended eight different elementary schools and four high schools, even living on Crete—Greece’s most populous and largest island. While there, he and his family scuba-dived throughout the Mediterranean. Because the Air Force provided a great range of resources, Jim and his father spent much of their time in wood shops, both becoming self-trained woodworkers. In the years that followed, Jim never enrolled in art or craft workshops, instead continuing to instruct himself in whatever artistic medium interested him. He worked with wood and glass until moving to New Mexico, at which point he found that metal seemed better suited to the general Southwestern aesthetic.

Open to custom projects, Jim has constructed objects like mailboxes and trellises on demand. And he finds that, oftentimes, it’s a customer that initiates a move in a new direction. It was following a conversation with a patron that Jim began making his solar light projection pieces—welding together steel cutouts, piping, a base and solar light. Each cutout can be removed and replaced with another so viewers can achieve a variety of different effects. His “ladies in the wind” are shaped and welded freehand out of black steel rods (later painted). Their bodies are gently undulating forms that sway (as their title implies) with the movement of the wind. They assume different personalities and don a variety of hairstyles and faces, which are generally comprised of river rocks from the bosque. The ladies’ wavy, thin forms create negative space that functions as a window through which one can view the surrounding landscape. They usually possess hook-hands that can hold bird feeders or planters.

Jim tends to “upcycle” whenever possible, finding old objects that can no longer fulfill their originally intended purpose, and using them in his art. Air conditioning coolers become Kokopelli heads, nails are painted pink and used as punk-rocker hair, screwdrivers and hammers become accessories or appendages, and an emptied out, rusted fire extinguisher becomes a soothing wind chime.

This was the first year that Jim and Nancy partook in the Placitas Studio Tour (put on every Mother’s Day weekend), but they now look forward to doing it for years to come. They enjoyed a fantastic turnout and Jim was the Tour’s featured artist on KRQE’s morning show (his interview with David Romero can be found at Jim and Nancy thank the Placitas Community Library and the Merc for making possible the flea market, where they can be found every second and fourth Saturday through October. They can also be reached at 515-4992/515-4323 or at

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