We had the privilege recently to visit a showing of Holly Hanessian’s ceramics. These are not your ordinary ceramics. In fact, they are referred to as “ceramic installations.” This is because each and every piece is finished, so to speak, when she installs them. No two showings will ever be identical. When she comes in, she attaches some of her pieces to the beams in the ceiling. Other pieces are attached to the wall. Some even require her to paint on the walls themselves to complete her vision.
Holly Hanessian uses not only ceramics but light and shadow in her art. By carefully stringing up tiny sculptures with fishing wire in a corner of a room, she creates a multilayered piece of art. It is not only her ability to sculpt that is noticed here: it is her eye for detail.
When one looks around at her many pieces, they will notice a theme of sorts. Upon first looking, you may not see how they all connect. To fully appreciate the collection as a whole, you need to walk through multiple times. It was on my third walk through when I knew which piece spoke the most to me.
As I got to the back of the room, in the corner, I saw what looked like breasts attached to the wall. One breast was on each wall of the corner. A delicate ceramic chain of links connected the breasts to each other by the nipples, much in the way some people pierce their nipples. Hanging upon the chain is five letters: L – U- C- K- Y.
I am sure many would wonder what would be lucky about having your breasts attached to each other with a chain, but once again, you need to think when looking at her work. Holly Hanessian is wonderful at making you see one thing but challenging you to see more. This is no exception.
Many people see breasts as sexual objects and forget that they used to be shown as a sign of fertility. What I saw was the fact that to have breasts and be able to use them makes you lucky. If you have had the chance to use your breasts the way they are intended to be used means you have had a child. To have had a child makes you lucky. There are many women in the world who have not been able to have children and breastfeed. Most of them would say you were lucky to have had the chance.
To have two healthy breasts also makes you lucky. Many people in the world suffer from breast cancer. It is, after all, Breast Cancer Awareness month. We should all consider ourselves lucky to be healthy and have two breasts. Many women have had to have a breast removed due to cancer. These women would consider it very lucky to have both breasts.
So, once again, Holly Hanessian has succeeded in making you (or at least me) think about much more than the obvious. Through her work, she not only encourages you to look deeper but demands it. It would be interesting to see just how everything looks at the next stop.