Oregon College of Art and Craft MFA graduate Hannah Newman is a multimedia artist based in Portland, Oregon. She is an Artist-in-Residence at Rainmaker Artist Residency. This interview is the third in a series conducted by OCAC thesis student Lindsay Costello.
Duplex: How did your upbringing influence your path as an artist? Were your parents artists, or did you have a creative mentor growing up?
Hannah Newman: I didn’t think much about the arts, especially visual arts when I was young. My interest in pursuing visual art didn’t surface until I began my undergraduate degree and learned that art could encompass so much more than I had imagined. Looking at my upbringing, however, I can see many things that have lead me to this point, but two things really stand out:
First, I was home schooled for most of my life, which made me realize at a young age that any system (in this case attending a school) probably has alternatives and loopholes, and what new possibilities might exist if we consider engaging those systems in unexpected ways.
Second, I was a dedicated Irish dancer from elementary school until I graduated from high school. I think dancing gave me a high threshold for endurance, and even enjoyment, within a practice of monotony. Once a week we had drill class, where would practice each minuscule section of a dance 50-60 times in a row. My friends and I dreaded drill class, but it worked—repetition allowed you to learn through your body exactly how a dance should feel. A lot of my work now has repetition or boredom somehow built into it, like writing the iTunes Agreement by hand, or stenciling the phrase ‘one becomes accustomed so quickly’ on a piece of paper every day. Irish dancing taught me the value of repetition, discipline, and enacting a concept with your body, and I carry those values into my work now.
Duplex: Your work “examine[s] digital technology and language as intangible structures that mediate our interactions with others, the world, and ourselves.” How did your interest in the relationship between language and technology develop?
HN: It’s not something we generally consider, but language is also technology—just a much older, and much more internalized form of technology. Many of the worries people have raised about the possible effects of digital technology were present when both the alphabet, and later the printing press, came into widespread use. Socrates discouraged the use of written language for fear that people would no longer rely on their memories once they learned to write. Ultimately language and digital technologies are structures humans have developed to communicate with one another. So what can an old technology teach us about a new one and vice versa? Any technology, especially ones so widely adopted, teaches us about ourselves since we are the ones who have designed, developed, and adapted it. Thinking about technology is really just thinking about ourselves.
It is with sadness that I have to announce that Emily Wobb’s Bad Dreams will be the final show at Duplex. We hope you join us on our last First Thursday, January 5th, to celebrate Emily and the past four seasons and sixty-three artists we’ve hosted at the gallery. We were really excited about our fifth season of programing: Sarah Burwash, Stacy Lovejoy, Akiko Masker, June Sanregret, Kate Nartker guest curated by Ashley Stull Meyers, Sarah Rabeda, Nico Mazza, and our 4th annual MFA group show of Kayley Berezney, Carlin Brown, and Megan Hanley lead by Melanie Flood. Please take some time to check out their websites.
We will continue updating the gallery guide and blog with artist interviews and related content.
THANK YOU for all you support and kindness!
P.S. Keep your eye out for our final exhibition catalog. The catalog is 70+ full color pages presenting each exhibiting artist, their interviews, and all artwork we’ve hosted at Duplex in 2016 and 2017. Artists included: Kay Campbell, Berkley Warner Chappell, Julia March Crocetto, Sarah Eaton, Shiloh Gastello, Gordon Waverly Gilkey, Craig Goodworth, Paul James Gunn, Becca Hall, Yuji Hiratsuka, Robert Huck, Demetrios Jameson, Satpreet Kahlon, Christina Kemp, Colin Kippen, Erin Martinez, Sarah Gee Miller, Ryan Molenkamp, Kathryn Cellerini Moore, Jay Muhlin, Michelle Ramin, John Henry Rock, Nelson Sandgren, Ayumi Takahashi, and Emily Wobb. This catalog, and all our past catalogs are available through Blurb.
Duplex: Why don’t you start by telling us how got to where you are now?
Emily Wobb: I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I finished my BFA at Carnegie Mellon University and I knew I wanted to leave Pittsburgh to work as an artist assistant after I graduated. I had done a couple of internships for Diana Al-Hadid, Max Gimblett, Matt Jones and Giovanni Forlino in New York City and I enjoyed the work I did for them because I gained insight into their working methods and had fun getting to know them as people. One artist that I reached out to who I really admired was Jesse Sugarmann, and it just so happened that he needed and assistant for the summer and fall. I went to help him with his We Build Excitement project in Detroit, and eventually worked in Bakersfield for him, too. That’s when I got to branch out from… I don’t know what you’d consider Pennsylvania, it’s not ‘East Coast’, not ‘Midwest’, but that kind of area…I’d never even passed beyond Ohio, before. When I drove across the country to Bakersfield I saw the Rockies for the first time, and just had that romantic view of the United States, like “Wow! This is such an amazing place and I want to see all of it!” Working for him also made me more excited about moving and exploring. I got the travel bug and I wanted to see all the United States and Canada with my car. I drove to Alaska for a month and loved the adventure but mostly the time that I spent by myself. It felt freeing and I felt a stronger patriotism than I had ever felt before. That has a lot to do with this show, thinking back to being free, sort of, and exploring that naive patriotism that goes into the idea of “America’s free and beautiful!” Especially right now. I’m thinking about how it’s beautiful sometimes and not others, and it’s funny, a lot of these feelings came up before the final election decision. It’s really weird now. I feel guilty and betrayed by my love of my country.
D: I think I first met you through Ryan Woodring and Alexis Roberto and their Prequel program, but they are from Pittsburgh too, did you meet them there?
EW: We went to the same school, but Ryan was a few years ahead of me. I definitely recognized him, but I knew Alexis better. I took a few classes with her. I kept in contact and knew about their Prequel program. I truly needed it then. I was drawing, but I wasn’t really interested in doing anything else, and I was working three jobs. I believe that Prequel got me back into making art in Portland, it was what I needed. Maggie Heath, my studio mate, was the first person I met here. I was emailing everyone asking for recommendations of people to talk to. One of my professors from CMU put me in touch with a contact of his at Portland State University, who put me in touch with Maggie. We were just instant friends. Maggie gave me my first show in Portland and we started the Bronco Gallery together. Now we’re planning on collaborating on a two-person show in May at the Erickson Gallery. Read More «In the Studio: Emily Wobb»