The book Goodnight Moon is strangely a bit of a lynchpin in many of my art projects. Goodnight Moon was a book I grew up reading when I was very young. I'm sure many of you are familiar with it. It features a bunny rabbit and his mom or grandma in a quiet house at the close of the day. It's dark outside and the mama bunny is knitting while the baby bunny lays in bed.
The narrator then does a kind of inventory of everything in the room as they say goodnight to it. "Goodnight mouse, goodnight house (there's a doll house), good night brush, good night mush" (there's a bowl of mush). We read the book not only saying goodnight to all of the objects in the room, but also, you get to find and pair each object because of how it's illustrated with little side images of each object. You look for the mouse in the scene, seeing it on the side, as well as the house, the brush, the mush, and so on.
I recall this as a very satisfying process, very engrossing and rewarding. I loved this pairing process, and I want to point out to you that in my artwork, I do this all the time, in part I now realize, because I found it such a joy when I was a kid. It's basically pattern recognition, but it's something we're good at as humans, and find pleasurable because it's how we're wired: Look for all the berries on the bush, or the gazelle on the ridge, or the bug in the soup - to keep us safe and fed and alive.
As you forage for a plant or a mushroom, or that perfect black skirt, see your lizard brain at work!
This same simple and gratifying process happens in at least five of my art projects:
Stand In, where I have a legend repeating the objects in the sculpture:
You Are Legend, where similarly a legend repeats objects in the room you are standing in. This project hasd happened as part of the Reflecting on the Sacred Exhibit at Babson College, and recently, this August I developed it further while in Vermont, on Turd Hill with an excellent group of artists.
My prayer books where an image is large on the left and small on the right. The image below is a page from the newest book, written just before the pandemic, which has new prayers and new images throughout, and was published under the original name Contemporary Prayers to Whatever Works by Simon & Schuster's Tiller Press in 2021. So two different books, same name, printed seven years apart!
In Offering Shelf, an asterix is in the object and on the label. The image below doesn't show that, but the label reads ' Every item on this pile is a thought, story, emotion I let go. ' and the pile is detritus and overflow of materials and scraps from my studio (as are the images from the second book Help me [ ], do the thing. (Offering shelf has been shown three times, at Millersville University, Lancaster PA in a solo show I had there in 2010, at 808 Gallery at BostonUniversity in a group show I was in prior to that, and in another form at 555 Gallery in the 2014 solo show there called Placeholders).
In Attendant there's a picture of the block in the label, and also in the image. This is Kim Cowperthwaite, at his desk at the Mass Institute of Technology, participating in the project while working. The photograph below is by Lisa Abitbol. Attendant has happened in many places and with many participants including Currier Museum in NH, MIT, the Urbano Project MA, Millersville University, and on Peddock's Island in the Boston Harbor :).
Again, it's just like in Goodnight Moon. It's amazing to me that a simple impression from childhood creates an indelible pattern of its own across several decades of my conceptual artwork. I asked you this in the Small Spark post a few months ago, and I'm still curious: Was there a specific childhood moment or insight that you remember affects what you do as an adult today? I mean of course, and frequently from pain. But any you feel comfortable sharing in comments below, please do!
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Solo Exhibition of new work by Hannah Burr
Ann Arbor MI
Sept 17-Oct 22 2022
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FREE SESSION WITH HANNAH!
If you feel overwhelmed, confused or just plain excited by what's afoot in your life, and would like some excellent clarifying space and tools, try a session with Hannah! She's been a coach for 15 years. First 30 minutes is just to see what it's like...
Hannah Burr is a contemporary artist and author. Originally from Boston, she lives in Ann Arbor MI.