It's been a while since I have featured a great interview with an artist on here. Today's interview is from someone we all know and love. Hannah March Sanders, who you'll remember as being dreamy and arty with Blake Sanders, recently had her thesis show at Louisiana State University. In her interview Hannah gives great insight on how she came to create such an ambitious show. She also gives great advice. She's like a big sister artist who tells it like it is.
In honor of this southern belle her interview is brought to you in Georgia font. Enjoy!
1. Your thesis show was beautiful! Are you relieved to be finished? What was the process of pulling it all together?
Thanks! It's just been a total whirlwind. I'm definitely NOT happy to be done with school. I'm a total academic. I love being in school. I even love to watch movies and read books about other people in school. I'm really going to miss all this great printmaking equipment and our libraries here at L.S.U., also. I am somewhat relieved to be done with my thesis exhibition just because it was such a mad dash to get everything done while teaching, planning and executing a wedding, and just getting through daily stuff like laundry and dishes.To describe the "process of pulling it all together," I think the key word would be "miracle." I got up early. I stayed up late. Blake helped out with laundry and cooking a lot. My school friends helped out with getting me 8' sheets of plywood from the hardware store in their larger vehicles and donated old clothes and things to me, both to wear and to crochet into floor pieces for the exhibition. After losing feeling in one of my thighs for a few months due to a pinched nerve from carving, I started doing yoga every half hour while working on my blocks to stay limber. I still don't really know how I got it all done except that I'm very stubborn, I don't have cable, and I don't really enjoy sleeping that much. And I love what I do, of course.
2. What is the show about?
It's about my love of literature and my experience with disasters in South Louisiana such as Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the extreme university budget cuts. It's also about playing around with fabric, sewing, crochet and becoming a stronger woodcutter. I love drawing and accentuating wood grain in the drawings through carving, so the show is also about experiencing materials on a grand scale.Below is my artist statement for my most recent work to flesh this out a bit more:
My most recent body of work, Trials and Tributaries, examines disasters occurring in southern Louisiana, interpreted through the Greek myths The Twelve Labors of Herakles. Mankind’s false sense of control over Louisiana’s resources leaves us vulnerable to nature’s powerful acts of reclamation: hurricanes, floods and the ground sinking beneath our feet. While researching the details and origins of The Twelve Labors, I found a plethora of similarities with local culture, politics and natural disasters. The characters in these narrative prints include hybrid monsters drawn from Greek mythology, which I have then further augmented with various forms of local south Louisiana fauna and contemporary political figures. I explore events ranging from Hurricane Katrina of 2005; the BP oil spill in the Gulf, Summer 2010; and the raging university budget cuts going on during my thesis year, 2010-11.Trials and Tributaries includes woodcut prints on repurposed bed sheet fabrics, appliqué stitched together to form colorful, layered surfaces. Accompanying the prints, I also create collections of crocheted floor pieces called “foot prints,” which incorporate scrap fabric from the printing process as well as clothing donations from family and friends. The pluming shapes of the “foot prints” mirror Doppler images of monstrous weather conditions, encroaching on painfully smaller coastal cities and ecosystems. This powerful image of pluming dangerous substances or weather systems functions as a reoccurring image throughout much of my work about the Gulf Coast.
3. You work on such a large scale and use alternative materials. What drew you to that process?
I feel that it is easier for me to draw from my arm rather than my wrist, so a me-sized or slightly larger scale gives me room to really spread out and loosen up my marks. I've always loved drawing large, especially with a blend of charcoal, gesso, water and soft pencils on board. When I did more painting, I always enjoyed making the underpainting the most with those sorts of materials.
For my thesis I wanted to go as big as possible to really make use of the great large format presses we have at Louisiana State University. I knew I would probably only be able to get one or two colors down for each piece since I wanted to do between eight and ten 4' x 8' images in just two semesters. I choose relief because I love how powerful one color images in this medium can be, and wood is a relatively cheap medium in which to work large.
I started printing on fabric as a way to create cheap proofs (we had a lot of free donated hotel bedsheets around the shop), but I was drawn to their warmth and ability to flow around with the breeze and around other objects. Also, prints on fabric are generally washable and easy to transport. Due to some issues with printing on the fabric that I had in the beginning, I started cutting out pieces of prints from different fabrics and sewing them together to get the best composite image. I loved the new doors this opened up! I went to Goodwill to get lots of different bedsheets to explore pattern and color. I would print each block 5 to 10 times on different fabrics and then collage pieces together. We had some poly-fil around the apartment from a never-completed pillow project Blake started, so I began using that to stuff elements and create a 3-D effect in the final project.
Really, I just kept experimenting and exploring. Usually failures in one area pushed me to try new things to solve problems. I'm really falling in love with sewing and crochet and all the possibilities of these mediums! I just learned to sew last summer when I decided I wanted to make my own wedding dress. This was my first sewing project, and everyone thought I was crazy. But, fortunately, with some help from my grandma and a lot of seam-ripping and starting over, I made the dress of my dreams from a $1 pattern.
My drive to recycle/reuse materials led me to take scrap bits of prints on fabric and start crocheting them into large doppler-radar-projection-like floor pieces I call "foot prints." These also became a bit part of my show, and I continue to make them from scraps I have lying around and old clothes and bedding friends and family donate to me.
4. You got married in your last semester of grad school and I was honored to be part of the event. You were so beautiful and so relaxed! Was there any secret stress going on at all or did it really come together as smoothly as it looked?
You were an awesome flower girl, Ann!
There was a lot of stress leading up because Blake works three jobs, and I was so engrossed in creating my thesis work. We really got it done by not sleeping much and just sticking to it. Blake's a great mastermind of schemes, and the "Blessed Unions" wedding exhibition, performance and panel discussion plan of his blew me away! Basically, we just grit our teeth and did everything we could to make it awesome. Once we got up to Saint Louis, everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. We're a great exhibition-hanging team, and Blake is good at channeling stress into brilliance. We couldn't have done it without all of our friends in the exhibition, wedding, panel discussion and other friends and family members who came out for the events. My bridesmaids helped put me together and lead me in the right direction, and everything else was magical. Galen Gondolfi, the owner of the gallery where we were married, was a total godsend. He figured out the PA, loaned us a bunch of materials and even let us sleep in his bed. We also owe a lot to SGC for helping us meet up with Galen, advertising the events, and donating a small amount of $ towards the reception.
5. What's next for you and Blake post grad schools? Where will the dreamy, artful couple be next?
No idea, really! We'll go anywhere for a good gig. Presently, we plan to stay in Baton Rouge through December. Blake is teaching printmaking at Tulane University in New Orleans and Art Appreciation at Baton Rouge Community College. I'm teaching Design I and Drawing I at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. We'll both be getting something else on the side to help pay bills. I'm crossing my fingers for screen printing jobs we both applied for, but we might end up in the service industry part time for a while longer.As soon as we do move, we plan to invest in some screen printing equipment and get our Orange Barrel Industries business really kicking with a clothing line, visiting artist editions and more!
6. Any advice for students when they are looking for grad schools?
Apply for all the places you think you might want to go for any of the following reasons (or other reasons that are important to you): location, professors there you like, nearby attractions like great art museums, lots of family/friends live near there or go to school there (it's always good to have a community,) etc. Make a list of reasons why you're attracted to various schools. Maybe they have a great press associated with the school or professors whose artwork you really admire…Go and visit and make a decision based on your priorities list of why you want to be there, your gut feeling about the place when you visit, what kind of money they offer you, and what the assistantship program might be like. The biggest factors for me were getting a full teaching assistantship so school would be cheap and so that I'd get a lot of teaching experience since I want to be a professor, and then I also did make the decision in part because my boyfriend-now-husband had a job near the area. Also, I realized the potential at my school-of-choice to work large format in a ton of different mediums, which was really attractive to me. I think one of the things that sold me on LSU is their great collection of litho stones and their two 10 foot presses.Basically, decide what's really most important to you and judge where you want to go based on those priorities--but don't let logic shout out your gut feeling. Talk it through, and don't let any one or any university pressure you into making a decision you're not comfortable with.
7. Any advice for artists who are about to get married (me)?
It's going to be great! I can't wait to see an Ann Flowers wedding. As an artist, you can save a ton of cash by being creative and doing a lot of things yourself. That being said, don't be afraid to ask for help from all your friends and family! When Blake and I were feeling totally overwhelmed, we sat down together and made a big list of all the projects that needed to get done to make our events happen, and then we made lists of friends/family members who might be able/willing to help with each task. It was great to turn over a little thing like renting a PA for the event over to someone else. If you feel bad asking for help, as for it in lieu of a wedding present. Who needs a new whisk, anyway? What you need is someone to pick up the flowers while you are squishing into your dream dress!
Thanks, Hannah, so much for such an interesting interview!