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Lily Hanson Adopts a Punk Rock Attitude While Making Her Whimsical Sculptures

A punk rock attitude can help artists shrug their shoulders and move forward with whatever idea they have, believing in what it can be even before it starts to become anything interesting. “It’s not so much my attitude towards the whole world,” says artist Lily Hanson. But it was her attitude toward making art for her newest exhibit, The Once Over Twice

Hanson’s new exhibit is inspired by punk rock. It is not something you would guess about work that seems playful and whimsical at first glance. The Once Over Twice takes its name from the title of a song by X, the Los Angeles punk band formed nearly four decades ago. Like many artists, Hanson draws on music as a primary influence. As you walk into the space, there is a blue piece reminiscent of piano hammers hanging from the wall. The individual works of art also reference music with names like “Master of Puppets” (Metallica) and “Jet Boy” (New York Dolls).  But the exhibit is well named because many of these pieces had to be redone. “It can be arduous,” she says, “which can make you kind of angry.” 

The titles usually seem to go with their visual pieces, but the idea is to mention the music that Hanson listened to during the creative process, which helped inspire the work and created a general sensibility. “There’s a sort of attitude,” she admits. “When making art you kind of have to convince yourself that it is not a common activity. You have to convince yourself of its feasibility. You have to let go of other things.”

The Once Over Twice consists of a dozen abstract mixed-media sculptures and a few drawings. But the work seems familiar enough to resemble functional objects, like shelves or cushions. “There’s some kinship to common objects,” Hanson says. “But they don’t function.” Some of the work looks like a hybrid of objects, usually with a hard, awkward line and a soft release. What first brings to mind cushions grows more abstract with the addition of wood and rope. What first looks like shelves seems to have a soft underbelly of cloud-like stuffing. But the objects are not necessarily specific and leave plenty of room for interpretation.

“It is not linear,” Hanson says. In the creative process, it may occur to her that one piece looks like a shelf that would be used for everyday purposes and another looks like a cushion. But she is interested in putting dissimilar objects together, sometimes with an upholstery technique, and creating a poetic interaction. “I do not know how it will work out,” Hanson continues. “It has a mysterious draw in that sort of way.”

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The drawings seem to be separate from the sculptures; two of them even hang outside the room in which the rest of the exhibit is displayed. They are actually paintings on paper, images of techniques that can be applied to fabrics to create pleats and ruffles. “I just thought the diagrams were sort of weird because it takes a pleat out of context,” Hanson says. She is intrigued by the different ways fabric can be controlled and sees these drawings as windows into those processes.

As a sculptor, she often uses fabric and sewing. “With sculpture, the techniques you end up getting involved in probably have something to do with your experiences in life and growing up,” Hanson says. Growing up, her mother sewed and taught her how to sew also. Hanson started working with fabric in graduate school. At first she was resistant, thinking it would lead her toward quilting. But there was a familiarity and a comfort level that made her stick with it. Hanson was quickly drawn to combining the materials of fabric, foam and wood. She started exploring ways to contrast hard and soft items, putting edges with non-edges, and creating conflicts. The work may be informed by a punk rock attitude, but it more often comes across as playful rather than angry.

The Once Over Twice by Lily Hanson will be on display through November 14 in The Project Room at the Conduit Gallery, 1626 C Hi Line Drive.

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