Phoenix Artist Erika Lynne Hanson on Loving Failure, Obstruction, and Richard T. Walker

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What happens in the studio shouldn't always stay in the studio. Studio Visit is a weekly series that profiles artists in their studios. We ask them questions, they provide answers, and then we have a nice discussion about their work. This week: Erika Lynne Hanson, assistant professor of Fibers and Socially-Engaged Practice at ASU.

Erika Lynne Hanson is an artist who's relatively new to Phoenix. In 2013, she relocated from the Midwest and was appointed assistant professor at Arizona State University. Her first exhibition in Phoenix, "Walk quietly, keep looking.," took place in Halt Gallery's shipping container on Roosevelt Row from November 21 through December 7, 2014. Hanson creates installations that explore landscape by incorporating weavings, videos, and webcam screengrabs.

See also: Richard T. Walker Disrupts the Notion of the Sublime at ASU Art Museum in Tempe

When we arrived at her studio at Grant Street Studios, all of the work from her show at Halt Gallery had just been returned. The work was rehung and leaned up on the wall, and the wooden slats that once served as the shipping container's temporary floor were in a pile on the floor. Hanson explained that she had neatly stacked them against the wall, but they wanted to fall. "I like to play in the studio," said Hanson, "[I] just set things up and see what happens."

Hanson learned to embrace failure while working towards her MFA at California College of Arts in San Francisco. She went to the graduate school with a strong technical background in weaving, but her program enabled her to get to the center of what her work was about. She would try to rework romantic landscape paintings through weaving, but the result always failed to match the original. Human inability obstructed the promise of the sublime.

This idea of obstruction is something that Hanson explores with her work. In "Walk quietly, keep looking.," she presented webcam screengrabs from Rocky Mountain National Park printed on flimsy vellum. The images themselves are obstructed by the lens flare on the camera and, as the prints age, the vellum itself begins to fold and obstruct the view even more. The weavings of landscapes in the space include and emphasize these obstructions, instead of creating the unreal perfect view.

An isolated lens flare from the webcam wass enlarged as a print on foam core and leaned up against the wall. It's wonky shape served as an obstruction within the walls of Halt Gallery, and so were the viewers themselves. At the entrance of Halt Gallery, Hanson placed three colored lights that when focused together create white light. As viewers walked through the space, their shadows obstructed their own view of the work. The space was activated,and the obstruction simply became a part of the work. These imperfections that Hanson presents honor the obstruction as just the way things fall. They accept and embrace human frailty and even the shortcomings of technology. Instead of trying to outrun failure, why not own it and love it?

At the end of our studio visit, Hanson revealed a story that further shed light on her art. At an antique shop, she found what was claimed to be volcanic glass for only five dollars. She bought it, kept it with her as a source of inspiration, and even included it in many of her shows. Turns out it was only buildup from a glass kiln. This failure to match up what something actually is with an idealized vision of it is at the core of Hanson's work.

Tell us about your work in haiku format. Preoccupation With a space / place just beyond Surveyed through objects

What artist(s) are you really into right now? Richard T. Walker. I have been a big fan for a few years and was super jazzed that he was going to have an exhibition at the ASU Art Museum.

What are you reading? I have a tendency to have a few things going. Re-reading Invisible Cities by Calvino and Simulation and Simulacra by Baudrillard. I am just at the beginning of In the Dust of This Planet by Eugene Thacker.

What's the last TV show, film, or video you watched? Respectable answer: Chris Marker's Sans Soliel.... watched last week for studio research. Guilty answer: old episodes of Top Chef.

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why? Robert Smithson: I think there would be curious conversations about the experience of space/site/location, questions about definitions, and so on.

What was the last exhibition you saw and what did you think of it? Christian Marclay's The Clock, and it was far more magical then I could have expected.

Jeff Koons or Marina Abramović and why? Marina Abramović, sincerity wins.

What's the best advice you've ever received? "Weaving is essentially problem solving" and by extension can be applied to art-making in general.

What are you currently working on? I am in the middle of a few new object/weaving/leaning pieces for an upcoming exhibition in Houston. Also trying to build the skeletons for a few new larger project ideas I have been kicking around.

What's your most valued tool as an artist? Fully believing that failure is positive. In all respects: in the objects, in the concepts.

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