artist hannah wnorowski sews beautiful silk boobs and fat rolls
As we premiere intimate images from her new collaborative series with photographer Christine Hahn, get to know the young artist powerfully reimagining the female form.
When I meet Queens-based artist Hannah Wnorowski, she's wearing a floral jumpsuit spangled with vibrant violets and bright blue peonies. These colors aren't crazy, but they're not the ones I'm used to seeing her in: pastel pinks, muted tans, and deep reds. If these tones sound fleshy, it's because they are. Hannah creates wearable sculptures that most closely resemble what lies underneath them; she fashions fat rolls, lumpy bellies, flabby faces, thick thighs, and saggy breasts from silk, polyester, plastic -- even balloon ties for tits. "I started making this series of wearable sculptures this summer," Hannah explains. "It really began just by thinking about what it means to be a woman, but I expanded the pieces to incorporate guys, so it really blossomed into a commentary on sexuality in general."
The sculptures, Female Nudes, featured in Hannah's most recent performance collaboration with choreographer and composer, Sarah Kinlaw, which was staged at Bushwick's Secret Project Robot gallery last month. Assembling a girl gang clad in knitted pubes and cloth curves, Female Nudes was a celebration of sexuality's diverse facets. "Sexuality is an expressive force and a creative force -- it has all these degrees," Hannah says. "Sometimes sexuality is aggressive, or sweet, or ridiculous or fun. This series was really about looking at it from a creative end rather than social commentary."
Hannah honed her creative forces early on, spending her childhood in Syracuse "constantly making things -- most of which had to do with figures and creating worlds for those figures," she says. Eventually, this artistic drive led her to the Rhode Island School of Design's Fabric Design program, "but really by chance," she assures. "As I started asking myself questions about what kind of art I'd like to make, I started returning to the way I was growing up -- how it was very free making these figures in these worlds. That's also what pushed me to make these images with Christine."
Although Hannah might have fallen into the major on a whim, textiles are the foundation of her work, no matter its subject: "I see a material and I just get this initial, intuitive response to how it should be made and what form it should take." It's a line of thinking that might sound familiar if you follow the work of her fellow RISD Textile grads Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta -- the downtown design duo behind Eckhaus Latta. The pair often forego conversations about their collection inspirations; they'd rather nerd out about its materials, like American deadstock fabrics or knits loomed locally in LA.
Having worked with Eckhaus and Latta on spring/summer 15 and fall/winter 15 shows, it's a formalism Hannah is well acquainted with. "I drove across the country at the beginning of the year and helped Zoe in LA. I walked into her backyard and looked over all these faux fur blankets she was dying on the lawn, before making them into pants and jackets" Hannah recounts. "I just thought it was such an amazing moment, she found these almost thrifty blankets and turned them something beautiful really beautiful," Hannah said. "I don't know if I would have stumbled into the world of wearable sculptures if it wasn't for them. Their concepts and more avant garde pieces just have this profound poetry that really blows my mind."
Like Eckhaus and Latta's emotional collections -- or the imagist poetry frequently featured in their campaign videos and press releases -- many of Hannah's sculptures stem from a deeply personal place. One wraparound work she calls "the sausage tail" is actually the direct result of a trippy, abstract sex dream. "A lot of my work comes from very personal experiences that come to my mind in flashes. The sculptures are kind of like self portraits."
The collision of self portraits and sexuality seems to be a common theme among young artists, many of whom use social media platforms to explore these issues. "Some Instagram accounts definitely influenced my early sculptures, when I was making work about pubic hair and bellies," Hannah says of today's unabashed creative class who are unafraid to bare all. "What came out of performance art in the 60s or 70s was certainly just as raw as intense, but I think Instagram has given women a very direct voice that I don't know if they've ever had before. How it's positioned art in popular culture -- and how certain women are getting a lot of power from it -- is really amazing."
Performance has certainly been on Hannah's mind recently. "I love how immediate performance is -- it's a very easy way to become emotional and to connect with people. I've fallen into improv and comedy lately, and want to try to incorporate those aspects in my work through performance."
While Hannah's summer sculptures might have taken it all off, she's begun thinking about a more seasonally appropriate series as the temperatures drop -- a fur coat series. "I love psychology and I'm very attracted to puffy, huge coats. It's a way to protect ourselves and an instinct for survival. I'm thinking about designing a performance where you take off the coats and reveal your body, kind of as an enlightenment," she explains.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Christine Hahn