ARTIST OF THE WEEK: HANNAH ALTMANSeptember 14, 2017
Fine artist Hannah Altman creates mixed media artworks that have made her shine as one of the art world’s most exciting up-and-coming talents. Mixing photography and textiles, she creates intimate works that are soul-bearing and captivating, often exploring anatomy, female presence and the power of autonomy. Her new exhibition “Construct of Viewpoint” explores these topics through her textiles and self portraiture artworks, connecting back to the work of traditional seamstresses and how they used their craft as a means of self-expression.
Here we talk to her about how she came into the fine art photography world, her feelings towards her internationally-acclaimed project “And Everything Nice” and her brilliant new exhibition “Construct of Viewpoint”…
What got you interested in photography and fine art?
Visual art, but especially photography, makes inarguable sense to me. There’s something about a proposed image evoking a specific feeling or perspective; I feel like a photograph can be a visual comprehension of the world, but those truths are endless and subjective to the artist, and that idea of multiple conclusions mesmerises me.
When did you decide to follow art professionally?
I’ve been fortunate enough that my first few artistic triumphs were a complete accident, so I only recently decided to stop stumbling around into opportunities that presented themselves and instead foster my own. I think that intent is what enforced the jump into “professional artist,” which for me mostly looks like forgetting an idea that I didn’t write down and sending a lot of “sorry for the delayed response” emails.
You are often the subject of your photos – why do you create so much self portraiture?
I’m really interested in creating a commanding sense of identity in my work. I’m constantly thinking about how women in art history are presented as Object. Naked female anatomy was a staple of art school training, but women weren’t allowed into these classes as late as the 1890’s. How were they supposed to represent their bodies and their ideas about them without the technical tools to know how to do that? How were they supposed to be in control of their bodies if they were only seen artistically through the male gaze? I think about this a lot. Women have a lot of self representation to catch up on, and self portraiture photography is my way of expressing that autonomy.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I think I gravitate towards a strong sense of light in staged, detail oriented images. Lately I get most new composition ideas near windows, in homes.
You have an interdisciplinary approach to your artwork – why do you like to mix media and what are your favourite mediums to work in?
Photography and textiles for sure. Photography is where my roots (and education) are, but I’m interested in how an image can evolve and address other mediums. I like the combination of photography and textile because of their differences. Prints are certain and unforgiving of error, but I like that textiles allow mistakes. A bad sewn idea can be taken out of a pillow but sewing into a photographic print (something I’ve done for a few years, before I started printing on fabric), shows every single needle mark.
You were recognised for your series “And Everything Nice” where you contrasted female body standards with glitter. How did this recognition impact your career and how do you feel you’ve changed as an artist since it’s release?
It really impacted my career. Truthfully the online attention was a lot for a 19 year old who had never been published to handle, but I’m incredibly grateful. The subject matter of And Everything Nice are definitely still themes I address in my work, and I’ve gotten a lot deeper into ideas of feminism and representation since. I like to think I’ve slowed down my work process a lot since then and read a lot more art theory, which I let inform my work more than anything else.
Tell us all about your new exhibition! How did “Construct Of Viewpoint” come into being?
I’ve been working on Construct of Viewpoint for the past few years, so I’m really excited that it’s resolved itself enough to the point that I felt positive about showing it. I’ve been sewing into photographic prints for a few years, but the recent switch to printing directly onto fabric is what helped develop this project. It’s largely based around the nuances of both textiles and self portrait photography.
What are the main themes you explore through it?
Printing self portraits on various textiles hopefully prompts thought about female presence in their work. The development of textiles is long and largely women oriented, seamstresses created and circulated pieces often reflecting their era and customs without necessarily drawing a connection back to their personal identity. For being so heavily influenced by the woman’s hand during the production process, the identity of the maker wasn’t always dominant. I’m interested in incorporating that idea with that of contemporary self portraiture photography, wherein there is no separation at all between who made the image and what the viewer receives.
Where are you showing it?
I’m showing it in a few cities actually! Los Angeles is first, followed by Pittsburgh in February. Junior High is a really great space that hosts a lot of events providing a platform for marginalised voices, and I’m grateful and excited that they are letting me use their platform.
What’s your proudest career moment to date?
I don’t think I’ll ever forget walking out of a meeting confirming my first solo exhibition, I was astounded and proud that my ideas were being heard and valued on such an unprecedented scale. I ran into some friends immediately after and I cried about it over some tacos. It felt right.
Photos by Katie Krulock and Hannah Altman