Senior artist profile: Sitting down with Hannah Macquarrie ’16

Each year in May, The Colby Museum of Art hosts the Senior Art Show, an exhibition featuring works by senior students ranging a variety of mediums, including photography, sculpture, printmaking and painting. Over the course of the next several months, the Echo will feature profiles of the senior artists, showcasing their work and speaking to them about their personal inspirations and processes.

Hannah Macquarrie ’16 is a senior Educational Studies major with two minors in art and creative writing concentrating in photography. She is currently working on a series of abstract paintings using a number of materials to achieve a desired effect.

You’re not an art major, so tell me what you are studying and how art fits into all of that.

So, I’m an educational studies major and then I have a dual minor in art and creative writing. I came into Colby as an art major and that was kind of my plan all along, but then educational studies kind of threw me for a loop and I had to rearrange things. I didn’t want to be an art teacher, so I figure having that as a major wasn’t a huge priority anymore, but I also know art is something that always needs to be in my life, and I am the type of person where I’m not made to make time for something that I love—I won’t do it. I’ll fill my time with other obligations and, since this is something I love, I knew I needed to be made to make time for it. So,  that’s how that still fits in and I’m hoping that after college, I’ll be able to have something to do with the arts, so we’ll see.

Usually the show is just for art majors. Can you tell me about how you made it in?

The art major and minor requirements got all switched around during our time here at Colby, so there’s some confusion because I think originally you were allowed to be in the show as a minor and then when that all changed, I was like, “Oh no!” So I dropped down to a minor so I could fit my educational studies major, thinking I could still be a part of the show, but had I known maybe I wouldn’t have dropped the major and I would have continued with the minor. So, I was stressing out over it and I talked to Bevin and she felt as though it would be acceptable for me to continue working towards the show even though I wasn’t a major because I’ve taken almost every single course I need for the major except for two, but I couldn’t squeeze those two in without dying over stress so she kind of grandfathered me into the way it used to be.

Can you tell me about what painting you’ve done in the past and how it’s transformed over your time at Colby?

Well, my painting in the past was always very representational. It was always looking at a still life; pretty much everything I’ve done was still life and I never really had an opportunity to delve into abstraction at all. I found that to be really frustrating, especially once I started painting here at Colby because I felt like I had to make this art that I didn’t really feel super into, so I was really uninterested in the process.  My paintings as a result weren’t as strong as I think they could have been, and so I was feeling really down about myself. Then coming into this year, one of our assignments was to do these six abstractions in six different styles and color palettes and I went to town with it. I had a great time just kind of exploring that really freely with hardly any restriction and kind of ended up feeling like abstract art was what meant a lot more to me. It’s turned into this crazy thing that I was more interested in the destruction and reconstruction of things than actually rendering something perfectly.

So do you want to tell me a little about your process, the current work you’re doing?

So I ended first semester with these caulking and grout paintings, which felt right to be doing because it’s so malleable, not to say that regular paint isn’t, it was like kind of like using clay like playing around with clay but it would dry really fast and I could mix pigments into  and strike into it with different tools to get different patterns and play with colors and what not and I was able to always find a way to keep pushing the piece even when I was looking at it and being like “oh this is very uninteresting or kind of boring”  I would just kind of destroy it and start from wherever it ended up after I pulled it apart and so I had a few conversations with Bevin and she started to feel like she would be doing me a disservice if she didn’t introduce me to this encaustic painting, which is the painting with hot wax that I’m doing now. And this is the same type of process so currently I was trying to figure out a way to translate this destructive and reconstructive striking patterned language into the wax, and I think I’m just starting to come over the hump and realizing how to do that and how to translate my language into this new medium which is equally if not more satisfying to work with than the caulking and grout was.

There’s been a learning curve, how has that been? Doing more than paint?

Definitely both. It’s stressful in the sense that with encaustic there are literally endless options, like you can collage with it, you can build up the texture to a certain point, you can make sculptural elements out of wax and then fuse them into the surface of your painting, so there’s just so many, that;s just a fraction of what you can do, and so I got obsessed with watching videos of encaustic artists on youtube and spent hours just writing down these techniques that I was completely fascinated by. And then I would come into the studio and feel like restricted by the fact that this was something that I’m just now starting and I don’t want to move linearly in it I want to be able to move deep within the medium with my own language and so I didn’t want to just start over because I thought with my caulking and grout paintings I had found something and something that was working for me the way I was doing it, and so I didn’t want to completely abandon that, so it was just stressful trying to strike a balance between feeling a child in a candy shop and also feeling as though I didn’t want to be so crazy and develop a new language. It was just a balance.

Do you have plans and if so what are they for your upcoming paintings?

Yeah. Well actually, you walked in on me combining something, so this painting here was originally just a caulking painting and I’m going over it with wax and I’m using the same technique with wax that I was with the caulking underneath it. It’s having this really interesting layered effect and you have different thicknesses of wax in different translucent colors that’s creating this very weird depth. So I don’t know. I think this is going to be something I explore more. I still have a lot of the grout and the caulking in terms of material, so I think I’m going to go for that for a while and see what I get out of it.

Over JanPlan you worked on three large pieces that were really much larger than these. Do you want to talk about what you were doing there? And how that came about? 

Yeah so those three panels were crazy, they were so big, and I still have to varnish them, but basically the Psychology Department saw my work hanging in this student show for The Student Art Committee. We actually didn’t have enough submissions to fill the wall in a really good salon-style hanging, so I was like I’ll just grab some stuff from the studio and pop them in the blank places, so I threw three paintings in the wall that had color in them. I guess the Psychology Department has been looking for student artists and artwork to hang in Davis because it’s a new building and they have so much wall space, and I guess they saw the General Announcement that myself and my co-chair had been bombarding the Civil Discourse with, so she went to the show and saw it and saw my name underneath this piece that she liked and then she emailed me expressing interest in having me paint something for them. So I met with her, got in the space, and she wanted these three huge panels to mirror the windows in the space in the Psychology Seminar Room, so we did some measuring and I took into consideration what she was asking me to do, which were these very thinned out, very drippy washes of paint that were pretty fun to do and then I just got going with it. I got the panels, prepped the panels, and went for it. So I finished those recently and like I said still have to varnish them and then oh boy.

What else are you involved in around Colby?

So The Student Art Committee, and I’m just doing a lot academically right now, so in the past I’ve done a lot of other things, I’m still involved in the Pequod and I’m the art head of the Pequod, the literary magazine, and that’s really fun and I submit art and I also submit my writing to it. But outside of that and the Student Art Committee, I’m doing this Senior Capstone, I’m a lso doing an Honors Thesis for education and I’m also doing the equivalent of an Honors project in Creative Writing and putting together a manuscript of my poetry and then there’s that whole thing when you’re a senior and have to get a job, that’s also kind of a concern, so I’ve definitely been a little hands off when it comes to but I’m still involved in the Pequod and Senior Art Committee.

What are your plans for after you graduate?

I’ve just been offered a position to pursue a 1 year teaching fellowship at a school in San Diego County, which is really exciting because I won’t have to wear my knee length parka to get to and from places anymore. So that will be fun, I’ve lived in New England my entire life. My plan is to accept the offer, but I still have a few follow up questions for them, but if all goes accordingly then I’ll be out there come August!