David Hollowell suffered from a traumatic brain injury in 2021, losing his ability to speak. Remarkably, he is still able to express himself through art.
For a little over three decades, David Hollowell’s professional life had been dedicated to art. In addition to working as an art professor, his highly acclaimed 3D illusion paintings were shown in prestigious exhibits. In 2018, the 71-year-old began taking his talents to a larger scale, turning his family barn into an immersive mural.
Then, in May of 2021, Hollowell fell off the roof of his home, resulting in a traumatic brain injury leading to aphasia, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate through speech or written language.
Though Hollowell couldn’t access words the way he used to, his ability to paint detailed, mesmerizing images remained remarkably intact. And his daughter-slash-self-appointed-TikTok manager, Adrienne, is determined to share his work and his journey with as many people as possible.
“I really wanted people to know who my dad was,” Adrienne shared in an interview with CNN. Hence why she created the account under the joke premise of “make my dad famous.”
So far, that goal has been reached—over 196,000 people follow Hollowell’s account, often comparing his work to that of M.C. Escher and Michelangelo.
And honestly, the comparison is well earned. Take a look below at some of Hollowell’s work, and keep reminding yourself that it’s actually 2D.
@david.hollowell day 365 of trying to make my dad famous 🖌🎨 #art #mural #illusion #2d #3d #surreal #crazy #plants #nature #weird #painter #artist #professor #ucdavis #california #norcal #famous #viral #trending #fyp #foryou #foryoupage ♬ ART - Jack Madden
Paintings aren’t the only thing shared on the TikTok channel. Adrienne has also documented her father’s progress through videos of speech exercises and one-on-one interviews where Hollowell might relearn a word or two.
In an effort to raise awareness of aphasia, Adrienne also encourages her father to share his experience (to the best of his ability) and has reached out to viewers asking if they could share any new treatments.
What becomes clear from seeing their interactions is that where Hollowell might express himself differently, so much of his core identity, like his love for his art and family, still show through.
@david.hollowell I'm back ♡ #art #paint #draw #tbi #aphasia #mural #braininjury #create #inspire #charcoal #pencil #artist #illusion #davidhollowell #California #fyp ♬ original sound - David Hollowell
“You can't talk but your love is enough for us,” Adrienne expressed in a heartfelt video. “Your art and your family mean everything to you.”
Losing the ability to carry on a conversation, express ourselves, and generally navigate a speech-reliant world is a scary thought. And for those who have to witness a family member go through it…there are probably no words that fully encapsulate that kind of pain. But as this story highlights, even when those functions dwindle, love has a way of persevering.
Thank you, Adrienne, for sharing your father’s work with the world. Hopefully, we can help “make him famous.”
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