Sarah Hahne is a local printmaker, painter, and the latest artist to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. Her show – titled A New Practice – is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library and reuses carpet tread, plastic, and even window screens to create quilt-like works that explore our “conflicted relationship… with our environment and the resulting disconnect with our core selves.” You can catch A New Practice through the end of September, and after that, you can learn more about Ms. Hahne’s work by visiting her website. We recently spoke with Ms. Hahne via email about her “first language,” her creative process, Woman Made Gallery, and public art.
Evanston Public Library: Can you tell us a little about your background as an artist? How did you get started in art? Was there something specific in your life that sparked a need to create? What drove you in the beginning? What drives you now?
Sarah Hahne: I think, like many artists, I would say I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make art. My strongest memories center around any type of art activity: cutting, gluing, coloring. Even after all these wonderful activities were no longer encouraged in school I never stopped doing them. I never lost the love of my “first language.” The basic design elements and principles were a method of communication that I felt very comfortable with. I don’t ever remember not interacting with the world through this primary language: line, shape, color, texture, movement, balance, etc. The love of this language continues to drive me and has essentially served the same purpose of helping me understand the world and express my ideas by manipulating these very basic elements.
EPL: How do you describe your art? Do you see yourself as fitting in with any particular artistic movements or styles? Do you work in any other mediums?
SH: I don’t necessarily feel I fit into a particular artistic movement though I know I have been strongly influenced by particular artists’ thinking process rather than the purpose of a whole movement. For example, I was profoundly affected my Cezanne’s use of “flat depth” but not by the movement of impressionism, per se. I wouldn’t call myself a conceptual artist but think of myself as more of an “idea” artist, and I love to explore an idea visually. I have in the past done series such as “A History of Color” and “A History of Number” where I get interested in learning more about something and explore it through a visual series – employing the language of design.
My current interest is looking at the root of our relationship with our selves/our environment. It is a my own very personal examination of our relationship with the objects around us: things we love, discarded items, things we are indifferent to, changing interests, etc. This series – titled “A New Practice” – focuses on this relationship we have with the objects around us, and I correlate this with different methods of meditation. It started with me really examining materials that I was getting rid of and thinking about that whole process: how we determine what to keep, what to discard, etc. This is one of the core issues/problems of a consumer driven society.
I trained as a printmaker and think of myself as more of a printmaker without a press than a painter. I like repetitive elements, design elements. I have a passion for iterations. In my “A History of Number” series, I explored the idea of the natural world being essentially created from the iterations of specific units, seen in fractals. It is easy to see the influence of textiles in my work. I make most of my own stencils, templates, and stamps. The stencils are cut from ironwork designs, quilt patterns, etc. Though the layered art has a structural quality for me, at least, it never makes the leap to 3-D. What I want to say seems served best by two dimensions.
EPL: Can you give us a window into your creative process? When and where do you work?
SH: I am fortunate enough to have a studio space in my house and as my art work requires stages of drying – paint and glue – I can go in and out of the studio as needed to tend it. I, like most artists, need to work my studio time in among the many other obligations of life. My best creative time is in the morning. If I am beginning a new piece that requires fully entering the creative process, though, I can work all day with few breaks.
EPL: What are your future goals and plans as an artist?
SH: I pretty much expect to be making art until I exit the planet. I don’t expect to have anything stand in my way. I am not deterred by much, even long stretches with little or no acknowledgement. It is how I think, how I communicate, and I am a much nicer person when I am making art so no one close to me has ever tried to stop me! Of course, I hope to continue exhibiting art and participating in the art scene. I tend to think big and in series so I am always interested in a chance to exhibit pieces that work somewhat like an installation.
EPL: How do you find Evanston and the Chicagoland area as a place to work and exhibit as an artist? What inspires you as an artist about the community where you live?
SH: Evanston has a rich tradition of being home to some incredibly talented and creative people. I have yet to see a part of Chicagoland that does not have something going in the arts, even at the furthest edges of the metropolitan area. Chicago is home to many interesting galleries and spaces. One of them is Woman Made Gallery, which has been a cornerstone in giving women artists’ opportunities they would not get otherwise. I have been honored to be in various shows there throughout the years including a solo exhibit last year that was the start of my “A New Practice” series.
I am also a firm believer in the potential of public spaces for exhibiting art. While there may be some risk involved in allowing art to be accessed without the type of insurance a gallery provides, I believe it is an important venue to access art. It can be a lot less intimidating to view art in a library than a gallery, and I think it is important, especially for younger people, to have a chance to see a wide variety of art. A special thanks to the Evanston library for making this space available for artists.
Interview by Russell J.