2018 Artist

Hannah O’Hare Bennett

My work is a poetic response to my preoccupation with what it means to be human and to interact with the natural world. In the last two years, I have focused on the concept of domestication, which is the ways that wild creatures and plants evolve over many generations of interacting with humans, eventually becoming so differentiated that they are separate species specially adapted to live lives dependent on our husbandry. In my art, I use the objects of domestic life–vessels, combs, embroidery patterns, etc.–and imagine what would happen if they were living beings returning to the wild and had to defend and propagate on their own.

In my latest body of work, I reach even further back in time and deeper into the land to the fossils that are evidence of a world without humans. Embedded in hard stone, fossils are visible remnants of motion and life, of an ecosystem that was here before us.  In the swirl of modern humanity, our politics, our internet, our conflicts, our passionate entertainments, my work is in part a reminder of the constancy of the processes of the natural world, which continue despite our inattention to it. This work is also about the landscape that, as an agricultural person from the Great Plains, holds great emotional weight for me.  Through my work and materials, I explore forms, textures, and colors that mimic the landscape and sky that I know so well.

In my expression of ideas, paper pulp has been my most important, although not only, material. I have been relentless in trying new ways of using it–pushing it into plaster molds, shaping it with my hands, impregnating it with pigments, iron filings, and saw dust. It is like clay in that it is malleable, but unlike clay, it shrinks and warps as it dries.  It can be like glue, holding together threads in a gossamer matrix. It can be restrained, but in that case, if it is a thick layer, it will often tear. Holes made intentionally and strategically will help prevent that. I have considered evaporation rates, varieties of fibers, and time in the beater, figuring out what will happen under different conditions and then using that to purposefully create objects. The work is as much about understanding the materials and the labor of using them as it is about any particular subject.