• Madison Perry

Zena Gottholm: Bringing To Life The Strange And Colorful

Zena Gottholm is creating artwork like nothing else in Chattanooga through her unique takes on color and inspiration


When we think of the strange and beautiful, sometimes we think of nature itself. Animals not often photographed, such deep-sea creatures can look otherworldly. Capturing the alien nature to a creature or being is often difficult but not for Zena Gottholm.


Beginning at a young age, Gottholm’s artistic career ignited by drawing dinosaur figurines with her father. Soon, Gottholm’s ideas began to extend past the dining room table.


“I then began conceptualizing my own creatures, constructing their own individual environments and the elements of their origin,” Zena said.


Heavily inspired by science fiction and nature itself, Zena’s creations take on an otherworldly aura. Sometimes a new piece will draw inspiration from a new favorite animal, or sometimes a tidbit of mythology or lore. Famous artists Salvador Dali and Alex Grey quickly caught Zena’s attention, and she uses their works as inspiration. The surrealist characteristics of their work is an important factor of inspiration for Gottholm.


“Using dreams and mystical themes became very important to me,” Zena shared.


Despite exploring the strange and unknown in her pieces, Gottholm originally was apprehensive of color. Her artwork began with graphite drawings with hours of detail and shading poured into them. Earlier works were smaller in size, while her latest works burst with lively color and are on a much larger canvas. The colors of her pieces add liveliness and mood, doing well to catch the wandering eye.


“I haven’t lost my love for small illustrations but my newest works have developed into large neon dreamscapes with an expanded story and purpose,” Gottholm said.


Gottholm will begin a piece based on her latest inspiration, whether it be an animal, myth, or a story. The character or landscape becomes her own as she gives the entity purpose, a story, and her own personal flair.


“I usually begin with several rough sketches of what the main figure is doing and then begin to create a format for the composition, sometimes I’ll photograph an individual in the intended pose to use as a reference for shadows and perspective,” Gottholm said.


Adding to the sketches, Zena then layers in detail, composing her piece with all of the elements of her process combined. By the end of the process, each piece features its own unique story and character.


Sometimes artists have a favorite piece, and Zena’s happens to be “The Event Horizon”. Inspired by the black hole phenomenon, Zena’s cosmic damsel is the embodiment of the surrounding environment of a black hole, a threshold that, once crossed, is impossible to return from.


“This type of terrifying but romantic cosmic resolution inspired me to paint a cosmic duchess surrounded by an event horizon, no longer affected by the outside world, floating and absorbed in seeping thoughts that will remain a perpetual mystery to the outward observer,” Gotthold shared.


Zena Gottholm’s art is available on her website. Be sure to also check out her Instagram page, @dameofdelirium.

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