+ Hannah Greely
Trish Tillman, Title, caption info
Hannah Greely, Title, caption info.
Q+A: Trish Tillman
How has the artist you chose influenced or inspired you?
I was drawn to Hannah Greely's work when I first came across
it in the exhibition catalog for "Thing" at the Hammer Museum.
I had only just begun making objects, after a long history of
building narrative through the photography of objects. Hannah's work in "Thing" contained a refreshing integrity and playfulness. Her handling of material was flawless and transformative, balancing directly on the line between reality and inference. My early sculptures were basically collages with objects, and I wasn't interested in continuing to make things that looked like art or that relied on a type of nostalgia to form meaning. It took me a while to really understand how to do that. The sincerity in Hannah's work held my attention, which helped me to locate the sincerity in my own work.
Many elements in my work can be traced back to what I've
learned from other mentors in my life: my family, teachers, friends, activists, musicians and lovers. The souvenirs I've been given or have made through these relationships aid in my approach to starting a new project. As a young girl, my brother and I would sit around the table with my mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins personalizing the objects we
had made at the local ceramic studio. We shared paint, fabric,
glazes and stories, and in turn I gained wisdom and pride. The meditative qualities in these crafting techniques are an important part of my work today, allowing the content of each piece to unfold slowly, and heightening the role of decoration. This is my foundation in feminism.
What does feminism mean to you? Does it influence your
practice or the way you position your work?
figures have said we live in a post-gender condition, would you agree?
As a young adult growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, I became very involved in gender politics, particularly in
the music scene. I will never forget how thrilling it was to interact with the Riot Grrrls at my first Bikini Kill show. My university had a progressive outer appearance—a huge
gender-inclusive women's studies group and constant music and art benefit shows. Yet underlying gender issues were still present, and as an aspiring musician, it was hard for me to break out of being the token woman that the guys wanted to play music with. It wasn't until I formed an all-female group that I realized the impact that condescending compliments from my male band mates had had on me. Sentiments such as '"I can't believe you play so well," reinforced a dualism in my self-esteem.
I learned how to feel empowered by joining all-women organizations. Bike rides with other women made me feel less conscious of the fact that I had asthma and had to take a few breaks along the steep uphill. We all shared the glory of being the first in line going up and down the
mountain, letting the switchbacks provide the unspoken exchange, unlike in previous rides with my male friends where I was somewhat patronizingly reassured that it was okay to stay in the back.
I took an interest in printmaking and enjoyed the collective vibe of a shared space and techniques. Here is where I felt the most at home; I could stay all night and make up my own rules. I also began participating in more rallies and conferences, like Take Back the Night and Visions in Feminism, and helped organize benefit punk shows with Positive Force. Being a feminist, as well as an activist for many other causes I believe in, is an essential part of who I am, and naturally it informs my artwork.
The kind of contradictions that I experienced in my youth and early adulthood are part of what I hope to address in my work. By reconfiguring intimate personal items and putting them in a public context, they can be seen as something else; something might appear to be vulnerable, but with purpose.
I don't think people want to recognize that there is still a gender divide today, just like we don't want to admit there is still a vast racial and economic divide. I no longer want to focus on debating statistics, but I'm aware of the numbers. As long as the U.S. government is still threatening the rights of women, how is there even the possibility of a post-gender condition? The cores of the issues lie in the web of capitalism. As long as we have this patriarchal and hierarchical structure based on binary oppositions, we cannot move past the traditional games of power.