Fred “Nall” Hollis’ most significant art series, “Alice in Wonderland,” is currently on display at Troy University’s International Arts Center, and visitors continue to be amazed.
The exhibit, which premiered Oct. 8 in the IAC’s Fred Nall Hollis Museum, was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic novels “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass.”
“This particular exhibit is a reflection of artistry not many people have really seen before or will see again,” said Al Head, former longtime executive director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. “This exhibit stands alone in terms of the quality and depth, and we are really proud to be able to have the entire ‘Alice in Wonderland’ series on exhibit here at Troy University. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to see this work in its entirety in this space.”
For visitors, the exhibit is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of Alabama’s most creative artistic minds.
“I’ve seen Nall’s work exhibited in other galleries and locations in the U.S. and abroad, and I thought this was one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen,” said Jeanie Thompson, who attended the exhibit’s opening ceremony. “The way the work is exhibited gives you a good sense of Nall’s life as an artist and his journey through various styles and media. But it’s really more than that, because Nall’s personality is on display. The elements of his personality that are very whimsical, that are very passionate and sometimes outrageous are all there, so for somebody seeing it for the first time, it’s a really profound introduction.”
Nall worked on the series from 1977 through 1979, using real-life figures to match the characters in Carroll’s stories.
“I read [‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’] and fell in love, and so I traveled for the next three years all around the world finding people that matched the personalities of these characters,” Nall said. “That’s how ‘Alice’ was born.”
TROY First Lady Janice Hawkins said she is proud to see the University hosting the exhibit.
“It is phenomenal,” she said. “It is his most significant and prized work, and he developed unique techniques in the process of creating this.”
TROY students played a significant hand in creating the display of Nall’s work, physically hanging and arranging the pieces.
In addition to “Alice,” IAC visitors can now see a new section of the Fred Nall Hollis Museum: a recreation of Nall’s Fairhope studio.
This area was entirely created by TROY students, who sought to give visitors another look at Nall’s life.
“It’s just been created and finished, and it’s walking into what you would experience by walking into Nall’s studio,” Hawkins said. “You can go in there and get a glimpse into his life and personality, and that’s what this show is and all the fabulous works you see in here. Our students for the most part designed this space, hung the [‘Alice’] show and completely did the Nall Studio. We have the most wonderful students, and I am so proud of them and grateful for them.”
Additionally, visitors can view the newly displayed “Three Who Dared: Civil Rights Icons,” featuring Nall’s portraits of three of the most influential Alabama citizens who were instrumental to the success of the U.S. civil rights movement while facing great personal and professional risk: Rosa Parks, Judge Frank Johnson and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.