Urban Birds, in place

My mother beat me to it. She and my father visited New York City before I could and visited Convene where four of my works—the commissioned urban birds pieces (see earlier blog post)—now adorn the walls of the 530 Fifth Avenue building. She took some photos for me. Visiting the site for myself is on my list but first, I have to get enough work done for my upcoming solo show at Northern Daughters that I stop having panic attacks.

Convene_UrbanBirds_2_HannahMorris.jpg
Convene_UrbanBirds_3_HannahMorris.jpg

Urban Birds

In May, I did a commission for interior designer Felipe Bastos, who spearheaded the design of Convene’s newest office and event space in Manhattan. After learning about my work through my blog, he contacted me about making large-scale painting/collages to be installed in the garden and bird-themed office space in the new building. By large-scale, I mean 4 x 6 feet. That’s big for me; the largest I have painted is 30 x 30 inches, and that felt enormous. Given the time constraint (official opening at the beginning of June), we scaled back on the scope and landed on 13 x 20 inch painting/collages which I could then scan or photograph at a resolution high enough to be printed at three times the size. The final result would be 4 x 6 feet images printed on canvas or another substrate.

Work in progress: first stage/layer is the collage base.

Work in progress: first stage/layer is the collage base.

This work happened in an around a day job, and also production for a solo show I’ll have this fall at Northern Daughters. I spent many an early morning and late night in my downtown Barre studio, up on the third floor. I felt like a bird myself, perched up, looking out into the dark through my brick-wall facing windows. It’s not the easiest thing to do--a commission--but this one was easier than others I have done, mainly because Felipe was so organized. And clear. Not only did he send along a detailed sketch for what he envisioned but also reference shots and color swatches. His energy was infectious. I also just like making bird people. Morphing a bird and human into a new, animated, and slightly awkward figure is entirely satisfying. The biggest challenge was working with yellow - making the infamous NYC yellow cabs fly through the air in mundane yet surreal fashion.

All four panels in progress in my studio.

All four panels in progress in my studio.

Felipe and his team ended up printing the digital artwork on metal. I thank Paul Rogers for his photography skills in shooting the smaller, final artwork and producing excellent digital files.

Sample on metal.

Sample on metal.

Another sample on metal.

Another sample on metal.

The merging of several worlds and fields--interior design, art, illustration, and architecture--was exciting for me who is multidisciplinary by nature. I’m looking forward to seeing the space and work when I’m next in the city.

A small version of the final framed piece printed on metal.

A small version of the final framed piece printed on metal.

Unfolded

People are often interested in the process of how I make collage paintings. It comes down to layering one detail on top of another, and another, and so on. I am at once a craftswoman, an artist, and a laborer. I mention that last one because it’s laborious, even tedious at times, but I can’t help but enjoy that monotony. I like repetition as much as I like spontaneity. After all of these steps, a (hopefully) unified piece appears. I’m not saying that this final art work isn’t important; I just don’t see it as the goal. What I produce in the end is a culmination, a travelogue of the visual journey I’ve taken. Layers and detail. I seek out the stories that happen in between.

These are process shots of Nearly High Noon, gouache, Flashe, and paper collage on board. 10 x 10 in. 2019.

Up on the Third Floor

I just moved into a new studio, a room on the third floor at Studio Place Arts (SPA). I’ve spent the past ten months at SPA as the resident artist, occupying a small studio on the second floor gratis. I decided, when my residency ended, that I wasn’t ready to leave SPA nor the opportunity of working in a studio separated from my house. Through snow, wind, rain, and sun, I have found that I love walking to and from the studio and home. We live midway up a hill here in Barre, so the walk is not insignificant, in terms of exercise for the legs and lungs. But I do enjoy the trip each time. So, I moved into an available space on the third floor, where I’ll share two-thirds of a large, airy room with fellow artist Athena Petra Tasiopoulos. There’s finally space for my rocking chair and stacks of art books that I can now sit down and read while drinking ginger tea. #whatcouldbebetter

My studio.

My studio.

Artist to Watch

It's all things February right now: confusing weather (snowstorm followed by rainstorm, followed by 60˚F days, followed by flooding), dreams of seed starting and growing the garden, and studio work. I'm working hard to finish collage paintings for my upcoming show (opens March 27) at Studio Place Arts in my home city of Barre, Vt., where I currently have a studio space as an artist-in-residence

My studio, looking out...the fishbowl!

My studio, looking out...the fishbowl!

In other news, Vermont Art Guide just published their latest issue--#6--and included me as one of their "artists to watch." I'm honored to be featured alongside the likes of Janet Van Fleet and other favorite Vermont artists. I'll also have work included in one of the two exhibitions at the Vermont Arts Council later this spring, showcasing the artists featured in the artist-to-watch series.

Back to the drawing board, now.

May your spirits stay high--despite of or because of the rain--and may you see some good art!

A work in progress in my studio - I start with a collage base of vintage images and paint over them.

A work in progress in my studio - I start with a collage base of vintage images and paint over them.

Before and After

My questions for the month are: what is political? What is personal? This month’s election (well, and the campaign leading up to it ) blurred everything. Political because personal and vice versa. And now everything is piled up in a big junk heap, awaiting for that lit match tossed in nonchalantly. I am still reeling. But I’m not static which leads to the questions burning holes in my mental pockets: how can I channel energy outward? How can I used my words and pictures to say something that matters? Make big head masks and get out into the streets? 

I didn't realize it at the time but this installation, Communal Fire, is a tribute to the idea of descent, of moving from higher to lower ground, and ultimately, to meeting up in a place where it's all about sharing. So it's a fitting statement for how I feel, post-election, and perhaps for how things have to move in order to get better.

Pre-installation/election heater

Pre-installation/election heater

Post-installation/election heater

Post-installation/election heater

Birds' Eye

Birds-eye-view, aerial, and panoramic views…why do I love it so? I’m working on a picture of Montpelier, VT, currently my hometown, and in doing so, I’m seeing what the wide world of Google has to offer me for references. So much overhead view! Is landscape a character? If attachment to a landscape supersedes other things like job opportunities, cost of living, diversity, are you crazy to remain attached? I find myself in that boat, tied up to a particular harbor. In my case, the boat is a canoe, and the harbor is a green bank on a Vermont lake. It’s frightening, committing to a place. My limitless view of the world (”I could go ANYWHERE…except maybe Afghanistan”) has tightened, the aperture dialed down, and gone is a periphery. Through my pinhole view, I gaze at the details. All of this is by choice - or is it? Is there a thread that keeps us tethered to a place, because the landscape matches up with our own shape? Like a giant hand moving puzzle pieces, slotting me in to this one little open space. 

Bird's eye vintage view, Montpelier, Vermont