Visiting Artist Talk: Hannah Greely: notes.


Tonight at 7pm we will be hosting Zarouhie Abdalian in the second-last Visiting Artist lecture of the year. Next week we take a break for Thanksgiving.  On 12/1 it’s Daniel Bozhkov. Below: some notes from last week with Hannah Greely.

  • “I’m interested in the way we have to whittle down our experience so that other people can comprehend.”
  • originally she worked in 2-D. The muffins (The Secret Life of a Muffin, 1998) were the first sculptures she made. The muffins open and close on hinges. This was the beginning of an idea she has revisited many times in her work – dissection, the “inner life” of objects; comprehension.
  • one of her drawings became the sculpture Rascal, 1999, a dog with two tiny people on its back. The dog has about twelve legs. One of the people in the drawing says, I think that dog has too many legs. The other disagrees, saying that the legs seem fine to them. Greely refers to this as an example of people forming opinions about the nature of things without understanding them.
  • Rascal is unstable, but problems can be fixed by smudging the material (plastalina modeling clay) back into place with a finger. In this sense the sculpture is still a drawing, a sketch that can be reworked. “It’s a drawing, it’s not supposed to stay.”
  • she made Weaver, 2000, during her junior year. The story: human culture has de-evolved and our relics are left behind, e.g., helmets. A bird comes across a helmet and squats there as if it’s an egg. Consider the alternative lives of things.
  • Assembly, 2001, is made of Elmer’s glue and newspaper. The surface has yellowed. It appears fragile, but is still strangely strong. She wondered: would bugs come to live on it after the devolution of humans? After she had added models of bugs to the newspaper surface she realized that people who wanted to examine the bugs closely would find themselves reading the news as well. A contrast.
  • some of her pieces come directly from the drawings, quickly. Others germinate over time. Once she became interested in the way her jacket was hanging on a chair. She stopped wearing the jacket, left it on the chair, and observed it. She was reading Eisenstein’s writings about montage. Putting unexpected things together to create a psychological charge. The jacket and a hooded child. Silencer, 2002.
  • she noticed that public sculptures from the ’40s and ’50s were covered “in bird crap.” The object had found an additional purpose. She made a statue that would deliberately accommodate birds.
  • created a tortoise carrying a reed boat on its back for the top of a rock in the High Desert near Joshua Tree (Scout, 2008). Taught herself basket-weaving to make the boat. Visitors would spontaneously leave objects inside: coins, flowers, and so on. Eventually someone knocked the tortoise’s head off.
  • she works out of garages and dining rooms, doesn’t really have a studio.
  • the mirror is set low in Dual, 2009, so that viewers can’t see themselves. This mirror seems to be giving the people on one side a window through to the other side of the piece — as if the nature of the object is being fully revealed. This an illusion.
  • how long did it take us to pass from the sight of bright dots in the sky to the word “starfish”? (Tracer, 2010).
  • she painted a landscape on a rectangle of cloth and rolled it up – the physical space of the landscape and the time it takes to cross it folded into one another: “trying to include experience in sculpture.”
  • feeling stymied, not knowing what to make, “I wanted something to tell me what to do,” so she tie-dyed a canvas, pinned it to the wall, and looked for a picture in the folds. (Jacob Wrestling the Angel, 2013.) Made small sculptures with biblical themes because the stories were already there for her. “I didn’t want to be responsible for the subject of my work.” Pointed out that Western artists in past centuries had a pool of ideas that they could always rely on: the Crucifixion, David and Goliath, etc.
  • made drawings instead of sculptures – felt “really free.” “It’s easier to find the freedom inside the rectangle.” The pictorial plane is a little closer to mindspace. Emil Nolde came to her in a dream.  “I felt I needed to make some changes in my work.” She made drawings with a Nolde palette.
  • currently she makes sculptures from clichéd pictorial ideas – e.g., a seascape.
  • she paints concrete over cardboard, enjoying the way it flops, buckles, and “looks more animated.”
  • she is working in an “in-between” scale – not small, not monumental – approximately the size of furniture or “like a child,” not big enough to overwhelm you, but too large to be completely dominated. This scale is “more uncomfortable, you don’t know what to do with it.” People have asked her to make them larger.
  • there are “so many problems that had to be solved that became part of the piece, and that is the most exciting thing about making sculpture for me.”
  • “Sculpture is always kind of framed, it’s always acting as a real object, but it’s not a real object.”
  • “I tend to use cartoon imagery because it’s the most pared down.” People can understand cartoonish works without having to recognize esoteric references to certain books, theories, etc. “I don’t want ‘me’ in there.”

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