Artist Profile: Hanna Eastin

22 12 2011

Thanks to ceramic artist Hanna Eastin for graciously agreeing to an interview!

A little bio…

Hanna was born in northeast Tennessee in 1978. She and her younger sister were homeschooled by her mother, a potter and field tech studying endangered turtles for the Knoxville Zoo, and her father, a small-scale farmer and water treatment guru. “Both are very focused on work ethic and quality, which has been a big influence,” says Hanna.

“I was really, really, really shy growing up. Confidence is a big deal to me.”

Since moving to Newton, Kansas, Hanna has had multiple shows around the Midwest and has completed large-scale private commissions in Kansas, Missouri, and California.
REB: Can you tell us a little about the themes in your recent ceramic work?
HE: Most recently I’ve been spread between three sort of overriding veins of work: functional pottery, sculptural wall tiles, and figurative busts. The functional work seems to work on its own and a fun semi-therapeutic aside to the other. But the other two are in flux. After being happy with them traveling along together for a few years, I’m trying to meld the two sculptural forms more, to create a cohesive body. The themes within my tile work have been related to water and currents and will continue to be so, as I think the connections between people/figures can be represented very well in those kinds of abstract forms. The connections between people and how those feel is very important to me, and joining the tiles and figurative work seems like the next logical step toward my end goal of making art that has a certain ‘something’ that people take note of, even if they’re aren’t even really aware of it. I am not sure yet how this will take shape, but it’s coming.
REB: What is your background with feminism? How do you feel that it influences your work and/or your personal politics?
HE: I have been aware of feminism since I was little, but only in the last few years have come to be at peace with the idea for myself. I tended to pendulum between being a doormat or feeling harsh or even violent, where I felt that a true woman/feminist, would just be confident and handle her shit. I had trouble grasping that and holding on to it. My mom would talk to us about people like Gloria Steinem and explain about women’s rights and talk about how much she admired confident, strong women. It took a long time for me to kick over into feeling like I lived that confidence rather than admiring it in others. The shift in my inner current, from being sort of dazzled and confounded by everything, to moving more confidently in the world, has heavily influenced my artwork.
REB: Contemporary ceramics has been dominated by male artists, many of them with large personalities. Has this informed your work at all?
HE: It has encouraged me to not be small. Small in personality, or work, or effort. I don’t feel the need to go volume for volume with any of those guys, but it certainly does open the door for boldness. And really, all the more reason to move through the ceramic world in quiet confidence. Sometimes quiet speaks much louder when the whole world is rumbling along. I think I spent so long feeling stuck inside myself, though, that having that example before me was a pretty good kick to stand up on my own.
REB: As an educator, how do you address feminism and gender issues in your classes?
HE: I don’t tend to address feminism terribly specifically, but I do try to impart that my students, male and female alike, have legitimate reason in and of themselves to live confidently. To be empowered to put forth their work at any level with pride, and not be discouraged by themselves or others, but to keep working. I think sometimes feminism can get turned into man-hate, rather than opportunity for everyone to live fully, and I work to keep my classes balanced for everyone, and maybe give an extra nudge to those who need it.
REB: Are there feminist artists and writers whose work has shaped your own?
HE: Adrienne Rich for subtle, abstract imagery. Jeanette Winterson for putting words to the near magic of human relationships.
REB: Other artistic influences, historical or contemporary?
HE: I am always drawn to heavy, bold lines, and contrast between the bold and the delicate.  I especially like black and white imagery with dashes of bright color.  I tend to be frustrated by pale colors.  I also love figurative sculpture.  I love the balance between abstract and representational.  When something abstract captures the energy of something specifically real, that is when I can’t stop looking at something.  There is something truly envigorating to me when something that is basically representational has been just slightly pushed beyond, taken one step into abstraction, and it suddenly is so much more than itself and somehow enlightening.

Specifics:  Auguste Rodin’s treatment of knuckles and hands.  Specifically in The Kiss, the man’s right hand on the woman’s thigh.  I couldn’t stop drawing studies of that hand when I saw that sculpture in college.  There are also a number of his hand studies that are pretty inspiring to me, also.
I love Ethan Patrick Harris’s sensitive and beautiful treatment of often surreal and/or disturbing themes.  That delicacy and beauty can be drawn into strangeness and make it boldly fascinating is comepletely exciting to me.
Jess Benjamin is a favorite contemporary female sculptor.  Her use of mundane and organic imagery and pushing small items to large scale and accentuated shape is amazing to me.  She draws from growing up farming in Nebraska, from water issues, to thistles, to a series of jackstones (they appear to be giant jacks, like the game).



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