Fruit Stripe | Oil on Canvas | 34" x 34" | 2008


Artist Statement: Despite its highly-developed social structure, sophisticated hunting tactics, athleticism, and intelligence, the hyena has been portrayed as perpetually deviant. Traditional folklore depicts the hyena as an unkempt, uncivil trickster. Popular culture persists in portraying the hyena as the villain, a proxy for the human thief to be held in contempt, whereas other animals such as the lion receive respect as noble creatures. Often overlooked in animal rights dialogue and snubbed by zoos, hyenas dwell within a narrow stereotyped existence, misunderstood and marginalized. Elizabeth Holtry’s paintings mimic the style of toile de jouy fabric, which often depicts saccharine, pastoral vignettes. To subvert the traditional imagery, however, she replaces it with under-appreciated creatures that generally are viewed as repulsive or unattractive. Her work seeks to challenge our aesthetic prejudices and to reclaim the hyena as a complex animal, worthy of empathy and awe.


Elizabeth Holtry received her BA in studio art from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her MFA in painting from the University of Cincinnati. Her work has been featured in regional and national venues, including: Hillyer Art Space, Signal 66, Hooks-Epstein Gallery, American University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Miami University, the University of Delaware, the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, the Museum of East Texas, the Monmouth Museum, the Delaplaine Art Center, and the Jones Center for Contemporary Art. She is an associate professor of visual art at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland. Her work can be viewed at: