American artist born in Denmark
“I draw in all media,” is how Hanne, the New York installation artist, describes the sum of her art.
Whether wielding a paintbrush across an unstretched canvas, twisting steel-wire cable or chicken-wire mesh into sinuous sculptures, running a stylus through handmade materials that may resemble molded mush or wet plaster, arranging miniature maps in graceful mosaic designs on her map collages, or using a computer mouse as a crude implement to accentuate the human feel in her digital photographs, all Hanne’s modes of work involve some manner of drawing and share the qualities of a spontaneous sketch.
Although influenced by the conceptual art movement, Hanne’s body of work is distinctly figurative and characterized by a primitivistic and at times deceptively naïve expression. Her art is deviously narrative, but ventures far beyond the mere telling of a story. She labors at length to meticulously construct immense intricate installations in order to fully immerse the spectator into a mythological and at the same time intensely personal universe.
Through her use of contrasting elements and symbols she aims to illuminate and dramatize some of the conflicts afflicting the modern human condition. By juxtaposing the wholesome beauty and innocence of unspoiled nature against the harmful effects of artificial stimulation and mechanical mass-production of a throw-away society, Hanne stresses the importance of environmental awareness and healthy living to counter the dangerous, destructive fallout from our voracious materialistic consumer lifestyle that threatens to consume us.
Hanne’s first solo show, The Perfection of Imperfection, was a celebration of the extemporaneous and explosive nature of pure artistic creativity, and the unexpected beauty of art in its imperfect, raw, unfinished state. It consisted of large tapestry-like paintings on unstretched canvases, as well as etchings and lithographs, at times revealing her attraction to such disparate sources as early medieval art and the masterful latter-day trinity of Henry Matisse, Raoul Dufy, and Jean Dubuffet. Thanks to Hanne’s joyous application of color and the vibrant energy and droll humor of her work, a feeling of joie de vivre seemed to erupt from her art and permeate the gallery, leaving many visitors with an unmistakable sense of exuberance.
She quickly followed up the success of her artistic debut with a performance piece called The Ugly Duckling in which she used a large painted storyboard mural and a small menagerie of animal sculptures as props to illuminate the classic Danish fairy-tale. The innovative use of materials such as chicken wire and paper clay was evidence of Hanne’s evolving experimentation with unusual and, in particular, reclaimed, recycled and reusable resources in an effort to breathe new life into dead, discarded matter and resurrect derelict objects from society’s trash heap.
With The Shadows performance and installation, Hanne began to hint at the true dimensions of her artistic ambition and the vast scope of her vision. The five-part series of complex tableaux, each one added consecutively over five days, chronicled the history of the artist and her world. It traced her roots far into the shadowy ancient past of Nordic mythology, heathen gods and roving Vikings, and represented by images carved into bark and other natural materials using simple stone-age tools. In conclusion, an ominous foreshadowing of a future laid waste by environmental ruin was painted on and sculpted from non-biodegradable Styrofoam and plastic, the resulting chaos vividly demonstrated in a noisy audio-visual composition of blaring TVs and radio.
The show not only included her own performance of From A Tree To A Tree, in which she held up bark to her body to re-enact the birth of Elma, the first woman created by the Nordic gods from an Elm tree; but Hanne also engaged her surroundings by staging another performance called The Shadow in which visitors to the gallery spontaneously participated by reading “The Shadow” by Hans Christian Andersen while sitting in a back-lit chair behind a paper curtain and thus becoming one of the countless newly formed shadows in the installation. This first use of shadows shows Hanne’s fascination with what has since become an important theme in her work, showing up in virtually every aspect of her art, including her latest photography and videography.
“It was like walking into an enchanted forest,” was how one visitor to The Onion Universe extolled the installation, undoubtedly articulating the wonder shared by many in attendance.
From the early stages of planning, Hanne contrived to make this a truly collaborative experience by spurring the whole community and the entire “onion food chain”—from the growers to the grocery stores—to become involved in the creative process. In an unsolicited gesture of participation, friends and neighbors would save reams of onion skins and tag them to her door for mixing into her signature handmade onionskin paper; and as an audience-participatory performance Hanne invited gallery visitors to Bring Your Favorite Onion Dish for impromptu potluck with an artistic flair.
Among the raw materials for this ambitious installation were more than two hundred pounds of onions and the scores of onion sacks, all suspended from the ceiling as orbiting planets in vast onion galaxies and nebulae. The captivating cosmos overhead was mirrored in an earthbound labyrinth of onionskins on the floor, guiding the interplanetary voyagers as they wound their way through the onion sacks and became unwitting participants, unsuspecting Onions in the Sack.
Included in this complex constellation were many smaller satellite exhibits and auxiliary happenings. The Onion Museum was a collection of personal effects and found objects in addition to over two dozen handmade onionskin paper bas-reliefs with archival paper pulp contour drawings, capturing the raw, unrefined, rough-hewn impact of prehistoric cave paintings. The Talking Onion, an oversize bulbous sculpture complete with a recorded monologue recounting the life experiences of an onion.
It also showcased The Onion Universe artist’s book, a manuscript, handwritten and illustrated with colored pencils on watermarked Onion Skin® paper, that formulates Hanne’s onion philosophy and enumerated The Seven Qualities Of The Onion as “earthyness,” unity, smell, taste, strength and courage, health, and purity (included in MoMA collection and sold in reprints by Printed Matter in New York).
For the One Hundred Pots of Onions composition, Hanne filled one hundred planters with polluted soil samples, each labeled with its source of origin, and grew onions with widely varying results, all to illustrate her growing concern about pollution while at the same time highlighting the hardy character of the onion as a symbol of nature’s cycle of renewal and rebirth in spite of our abuse. Performing in an outfit fashioned from palm bark and sitting in a see-through hut built of branches and onion sacks, Hanne told the Seven Good Luck Stories—homespun tales of unlikely but true personal good fortune and happenstance, while peeling onions with the audience participating.
The process of onionization was Hanne’s attempt at ridding unhealthy, polluted places and stuffy, self-important people of their toxins and artifice. In The Onionization of the Big Apple she dressed symbolically in seven layers of natural-fiber clothing and onionized seven carefully selected locations, most notably the New York Stock Exchange, United Nations, World Trade Center, General Motors and local utility power plants, all to such outstanding acclaim that the New York Department of Agriculture offered to sponsor a recreation of The Onion Universe in New York City.
The number seven made its first appearance here as an idea sprouting from the seven layers of the onion itself to inspire Hanne’s artist name, H7L. They have since become prominent symbols in Hanne’s art, used to alternately evoke and invoke the magical powers long attributed to both plant and cipher throughout religion and history. Coincidentally, assembling the elaborate installation took precisely seven days.
Numerous smaller versions of The Onion Universe have been recreated for international art events and projects, including C.U.A.N.D.O. and Plexus; and parts of the The Onion Museum were exhibited at the Guild Hall Museum in East Hampton, New York. Various aspects of The Onion Universe and related installations, performances and happenings have been written up or reviewed in New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, several publications in The Hamptons, Long Island, most major Danish newspapers; and shown on CBS News in New York and San Diego.
With Who Is The Monster? Hanne embarked on a truly international adventure, inaugurating an installation in Paris that was soon followed by equally successful shows and performances in Copenhagen and New York. It included mixed-media paintings on unstretched canvases and burlap potato sacks, masks of handmade paper, sculptures of papier-mâché and chicken wire, and ink drawings on rice paper created by pouring ink directly from the bottle.
In this provocative installation, visitors were immediately confronted with the “Big Black Monster” in the form of Blackie, a phantom hybrid creature, half wolf, half Labrador. It was an encounter meant to tease the subconscious and seed the question that reverberated throughout an exhibit intended to trigger reactions and elicit answers which guests were then invited to write in the guestbook. In Copenhagen, Hanne performed by painting monsters on the T-shirts of visitors, and in the East Village show, fifteen poets were invited to let the installation inspire their poetry and then encouraged to read it out loud at the exhibit closing, during which a dancer performed a monster dance.
Animals and People in Movement was an installation of mixed media on transparent fiberglass screens. It was accompanied by sounds specially composed by Andy Kaye, and culminated in a performance by musicians and poet-performers acting out their poems inspired by Hanne’s art. These see-through pieces are best presented hanging freely, to allow light and sight to pass unhindered through from both sides, or at a certain distance from a bare wall which in turn becomes a background for the shadow drawings.
In Paintings of New York and Other Fantasies, Hanne pays poignant tribute to her beloved city, portraying some of her favorite landmarks in lush, vibrant colors using acrylic paint on unstretched canvas or wood, sometimes with the effect of sugar icing on gaudy birthday cakes. As part of the exhibit at a prestigious Midtown Manhattan gallery, Hanne included a performance called Painting the Dodge during which she turned her automobile into an idiosyncratic art car by decorating it with images of the street scenery from the exhibit’s Our House painting.
Premonition was her first application of surplus credit-card size plastic New York subway maps as a background, in this instance for her painting of the World Trade Center in 1992. The work was named retroactively for the doom of its avian trajectory as borne out by the tragic events that it seemed to augur, be it the 1993 bombing, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, or any number of intervening thwarted threats and attempts.
In the installation Life in the 90's, Hanne continued working with miniature plastic maps, this time utilizing them to effectively “draw” on collages of similar maps affixed to either foam core hung on walls, or translucent conservacore hung from the ceiling, some depicting runners and titled No Time, Out of Time, Losing Time, and Short of Time.
The Seven Stations of O.J. was a mixed-media installation arising from the controversial O.J. Simpson double-murder trial, and is Hanne’s indictment of the flawed judicial process that would allow a barefaced criminal to walk free. Visitors who successfully infiltrated the gallery through a “Crime Scene” tape obstruction were rewarded with a Bloody O.J. cocktail specially concocted for the show.
It included three hundred 1-800-OJ-KILLS bank notes with O.J. Simpson’s smiling face hanging from the ceiling, printed on light-green rag paper, each signed and numbered as an individual print. For the Polaroid emulsion transfer prints, Hanne took Polaroid photographs of her mixed-media installation pieces, transferred the emulsion to archival paper and attached the remains to the final piece to show the process of its creation. The creation of the installation was featured in a Fox News broadcast.
The unifying theme of Good Against Evil derived from Hanne’s "Good Against Evil" wall mural. With its color and whimsy it served not merely to embellish a drab East Village tenement, but its mythical creatures and benign monsters also offered spiritual protection for the tenants against the violence and corruption around them.
After being featured on the cover of the Hamptons' magazine, Dan’s Papers, Hanne indirectly incorporated the mural into the multimedia installation itself by mounting reproductions on wallpaper canvas used to cover the walls and floor of the gallery. This in turn became the canvas for Hanne’s daily Wolfman painting performance; video rushes of this and the many other daily activities of this dynamic installation were also shown in the gallery.
Echoing the images of dragons, unicorns and gargoyles of the mural were the hanging and free-standing sculptures of a fantastical figment born of Hanne’s imagination, the Wolfman, a hybrid creature, part human, part animal, that symbolizes people’s connection to their place in nature, its real and painted shadows emphasizing the duality of the piece. Seven sheets of crackling vellum kept in constant motion by a fan not only supplied the soothing auditory component of the piece, but also served as a backdrop for the ever-changing shadow “drawings” of the hanging sculptures. In the audience-participatory performance Shadows of Good or Evil visitors could act out their own visions of good or evil as shadow puppets against the vellum curtains. A Good Against Evil miniature catalog was produced.
Working in her East Village studio, Hanne continues to explore new modes of expression and experiment with new materials and methodologies, mixing media and metaphors in novel and unexpected ways, most recently by judiciously applying digital tools and techniques to time-honored themes while careful not to let the lure of technology overwhelm the message of her art. The Wolfman motif persists in virtually all her work, from painting and sculpture to decorated clothing and digital drawing. Hanne often imposes her Wolfman drawings on digital photographs, in part to soften the machine-like precision of computer art with her unmistakably human touch; as well as other drawings that become the outlines for digital cutouts.
In the Hanne’s Broken Hand series, Hanne photographed the process of breaking and reassembling the plaster-cast of her own hand (included in The Henry Buhl Collection and selected for the Buhl Collection 2002 Calendar).
In Shadows of Obsession, Hanne has once again married a familiar theme to a favorite medium in a fresh and original manner in her intriguing audio-visual performance of shadow dancing, hereby demonstrating an overriding artistic principle of opening new doors while never letting old ones fully close behind her.
Playing on the plurality of mechanically reproduced images and its impact on how we recognize faces and assign the identity of celebrity, Hanne's Star Series is a visual reduction of famous personalities throughout history down to their essential elements by obscuring a portion of the face with a flash of light. The interplay of familiar and unfamiliar continues to inform the Illusion series, juxtaposing images from pop culture as well as her own image in varying opacities to form new meanings. The mystery of transparency and how it can both obscure and reveal and transform perceptions of reality is finished by Hanne’s signature Wolfman drawing, a reminder of our role as creatures that embody the spirit of humanity and nature as perpetual truths.
Hanne was born in Denmark and came to the United States in early adulthood. She attended and received a double-major Bachelor of Arts degree in Art and History of Art from University of California, Berkeley; as well as a Master of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts from University of California, San Diego. She has exhibited widely in galleries in the US and Europe, and she is represented in numerous private collections, including The Henry Buhl Collection in New York City, as well as the collections of the Museum of Modern Art.
Her artist’s books include: “The Onion Universe,” “Palm Reading,” “Some People Fit In Everywhere And Some Do Not,” “Criminal Conversation between Søren Kierkegaard, Hans Christian Andersen and Henry Matisse,” and “I Am Half Wolf And Half Labrador.”
“More than anything, Hanne Lauridsen’s work shocks by its amazing playfulness. In the world of very "serious" artists, her work stands out, before anything else, by its joyous spontaneity. Her crinkly sculptures suggest lack of effort, simple but effective gestures and also an amazing type of perception. It is exactly this freshness of perception that differentiates her.
—Monique Goldstrom, Art Dealer, New York
“Hanne looks at life in layers. The onlooker of H7L’s work should peel the layers apart to reveal her art.”
—Willoughby Sharp, Art Critic and Art Dealer, New York
“Hanne H7L Lauridsen uses old things in new ways. That’s an old line in art, but this artist lines things up with a difference. She combines old unwanted objects—the famous old objects trouvé—not just to make new works, but novel combination of enduring trends in interesting and important modern art.”
— Andrew McDonnell, Art Critic, New York
“Hanne’s work seems to bring the traditions of Marc and CoBrA up into the 1980s. I was most fascinated by the dogs, which look as though they might have been found on some cave paintings in Germany or Scandinavia.”
— Robert Rosenblum, Art Critic and History of Art Professor, New York
"Shadows was a multifaceted work of which performance was only a part. Incorporated in Ms. Lauridsen's documentation is a well-articulated discussion of her process. I include it here because it illuminates artmaking in a wonderful way."
— Linda Frye Burnham, Editor, High Performance, California
“Hanne is a natural artist and her work is richly layered in odd mythological symbols that are expressed with a light and witty touch.”
— Eleanor Antin, Artist, California
“Hanne’s work is extremely interesting, eccentric and original.”
— Italo Scanga, Artist, California
“Hanne is an absolutely original artist.”
— Newton and Helen Harrison, Artists, California