Astoundingly Human: An Interview with Artist Hannah Beerman

Beerman creates works on canvas that push right past the boundaries that traditionally define what is and isn’t a painting.

A view of the recent Kapp Kapp exhibition. Courtesy Kapp Kapp

Is paint what defines a painting or is there more to it? Artist Hannah Beerman, whose work was recently on view at Kapp Kapp in New York, creates works on canvas that push right past the boundaries that traditionally define what is and isn’t a painting. You are my flavor profile pairs paint with flowers, metal hangers, clothing and balloons. Another work incorporates a full-length foam noodle and a single sneaker. A stuffed toy. A loaf of bread. One of my favorite Beerman pieces, Glitter Pita, delivers on its titular promise.

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Beerman’s work, which she has compared to fly paper picking up what’s going on around it, does feel a little chaotic, but that’s part of the joy of it. Maybe ‘unbridled’ is a better descriptor. Her studio, shown in bits and pieces in photos on Instagram, has the same busy vibe. One can picture the artist in a creative frenzy, grabbing paint and brushes and day-to-day ephemera as the mood strikes.

A colorful painting with cloth letters embedded in it
‘Love me tender, will you,’ (2023). Courtesy Kapp Kapp

According to poet Eileen Myles, “This is seriously dangerous work ripping open painting to see what it can hold.” And what Beerman shows us is that one painting—mixed media work, if you prefer—can hold a lot: conversations… relationships… biographies. The literal stuff that defines us and the stuff that we wish didn’t. It’s complicated, and it’s beautiful, though admittedly, probably not for everyone because it’s also so astoundingly human.

Observer caught up with Beerman to talk about what she’s doing now and what’s next.

‘’Mixed media’ doesn’t really begin to describe what you do. Why did you initially begin embedding the detritus of life in your works?

A sense of urgency while painting drove me to start including objects within my reach and field of vision as globs of paint themselves. Things have developed wildly from there.

In a way, your paintings are self-portraits—not of your image but of your life. Is there something specific you want to communicate about yourself in your pieces?

I don’t have a specific prescribed message I intend for viewers to walk away with. But I do hope there is a sense of freedom and breathing room for chaos and play, for loss and for pathos sparked by the paintings. I also hope there is space for the painting to catalyze connections and ideas in viewers’ minds and hearts connected to their experiences as living, feeling, thinking, surviving people.

A colorful painting with a wig glued to it
‘I’ll kiss your underarms,’ (2023). Courtesy Kapp Kapp

What can you tell me about your process? How do your assemblages come together?

I work on many pieces at the same time and they all develop together, usually on the floor. With paint, fabrics and other found materials I experiment on surfaces, cut them up and reattach them. I’m interested in giddiness and grief, panic and resolution, color and desperation, urgency and play.

I’m going to venture to guess your work can be pretty polarizing because it turns the concept of painting on its head. Does the perception of your work ever impact what you choose to put into the world?

Ideally, when I’m in the studio I try to just focus on working and experimenting and the process, and not the critical or commercial reception of a piece.

How do you see your work evolving in the future, if you had to venture to guess?

I hope my work continues to change and evolve in unpredictable ways and surprises me!

A colorful painting with a Lambchop toy embedded in it
‘Long side,” (2023). Courtesy Kapp Kapp

Astoundingly Human: An Interview with Artist Hannah Beerman