I stumbled onto New York based Artist, Hannah Yata‘s work at Asbury Park’s Parlor Gallery – I knew immediately I didn’t want to sum up her work with my words. I needed to reach out to her, I needed to know what thoughts could conceivably be swimming around in her head. What lurks in the mind of someone creating worlds where women lay about with heads of fish.
HM: My first encounter with your work was at the juried show at Parlor Gallery. I stood there so amazingly and majestically disturbed and elated by your work.
I’m not quite sure what to say about my artwork. If you were coming to see a show of mine I would tell you to approach it with a sense of humor. I suppose it’s quite tongue in cheek… many times with the paintings and the titles playing off one another. However, I build my ideas and work on serious concepts a things that matter a lot to me: environmentalism, feminism, psychology…. so there’s a lot of juxtapositions going on. I find that each piece has its own personality so I tend to leave a lot of interpretation open to the viewer. Trying to explain all of them tends to sand down the corners and close them down… they are each laden with their own explanations both from universal and personal points of view.
Maybe I should explain a specific piece to kind of let you know what I mean:
I get a lot of questions about the painting “Throwing Up the Children.” This one is pretty heavy for me. Sure, we could talk about it in terms of abortion, and women’s rights over their own bodies. I could talk about in terms of my very alienated relationship with my mother and family and their choices to no longer be apart of my life. I thought about it first and foremost in terms of nature, Mother Earth, whatever you want to call it- and her right to “throw up” her children- in this case, us. On one hand, one must reproduce and go on, but when that reproduction is counter intuitive to survival at what point do you draw the line? … and what of those children and their rights? Our world is incredibly overpopulated and we keep gorging ourselves on the last remaining resources.. at what point will Earth stop supporting human life? I think maybe I’m posing more questions than really putting answers out there. I’m on a search for a lot of things so I’m sorry if I’m not very clear.
I’ve got a new painting you can throw in… it’s the first one in a long time without a fish head for a protagonist.
HM: The new work you sent me – very primal. What made you use a new protagonist in the pieces…why the stray away from fish heads?
Yes. I suppose it could be a gamble straying away from the fish heads as a protagonist… But as an artist I’m constantly trying to set new challenges for myself. When I start to feel that something is getting over played or I’m backing myself into a corner I have to mix it up. The fish will never be gone entirely I’m sure- I’m attached to them on a very deep level. However, I don’t want to over use them to the point where they become kitsch and predictable. Lately, I’ve become fascinated with these hairless cats (or “Sphinx”) I found their odd beauty strange, unnatural, off-putting and beguiling. I think finding new things and what they mean to me and seeing how others react to them helps me grow. I find excitement in learning and exploring. I think my journey in finding a vision and voice in my artwork would be woefully cut short if I chose a lone protagonist for the rest of my life’s work. I think the fish-heads were one personality. However, I want to explore more- I want to add more dimensions and characters… I think that is when the beauty in your artwork transforms from a solo to a symphony.
HM: I know you made mention of posing more questions than really putting answers out there – which makes me think that you are creating quandaries and questions for yourself that you try to resolve within the painting. Can you explore what questions pop into your head as you’re painting? What do you think the viewer walks away pondering after seeing your work?
I think more so with the hairless cats I began to question “is this offensive?… And if its offensive is it a “good” offensive?” I think sometimes it’s hard to strike that balance of making someone uncomfortable with revealing and unfortunate truth and just being rude. I try not to be rude… but I definitely work for a strong statement.
I think a big part of my work is trying to speak to people and hoping something resonates with them somewhere. I try not to “preach” one specific idea too much, I have personally experienced how annoying that can be even if you agree with the idea. It is my hope to tap into a deeper level on consciousness- in my own surreal language i hope the work could some how spark a jolt of awareness in lives filled with distractions and many times superficial concerns.