hanee birch : artwork

Currently in-progress are two projects, Go Down Old Hannah and Distant Horizon which each will eventuate in a multi-figural statuette and some associated studies. These will each be available as open editions and for minishows.

The one that has occupied most of my time in the last six months is entitled Go Down Old Hannah.

Go Down Old Hannah, is an attempt to preserve and embody some of what I experienced as a foster parent; some of those challenging, but freeing, moments where the self slips away and you're just the conduit to what's needed and what's right. A sort of unreflective and hidden heroism that almost everyone has found their way to at one time or another—often as if by no will of their own and after having just passed what they thought was their limit of energy, compassion and suffering.

As for the status of the work: while the sketch featured above was very promising, it didn't prove to be the best platform for working out the portraits. So, for the past few months, I've been focusing on resolving the two portraits at lifesize.

This one of myself, as a beardless study of the singing expression, is complete (after many prior studies).

The infant, on the other hand, still needs a few more repetitions, but it's starting to come together.

Once the infant is more fully resolved, I will be scaling both portraits down to half-size studies, then diving back into the statuette, also at half-size this time.


While Go Down Old Hannah is currently my primary focus, I have completed a candidate-statuette for Distant Horizon: another work that grows out of an attempt to process some of my and my wife's experiences as foster parents.

Based on a single fragmentary photograph I have of Rachael from the first day we brought our once-foster-daughter home from the hospital (8 days old), Distant Horizon is a closure piece for reflecting on that beginning. A mix of many feelings that day as we contemplated the moment and the future: so much quiet, hidden hope, but with no power of efficacy, or medium to pour it into.

As with Go Down Old Hannah, I will be intensely studying both portraits at lifesize before returning to complete a final halfscale statuette. I'm hoping to bring the expression closer to this drawing-study: a little more apprehensive and a more probing gaze.

While I am happy with the candidate-statuette as a smaller, more general work, it's important to me that I am able to really preserve the complexity and specificity of the moment, and so the work goes on.

Autonomous sketches

These two sketches are molded and are available upon request, though I do intend to return to these and in some form improve them (as always this is the plan, but I am trying to not make my perfectionism a barrier to the mere sharing of the work).

Held by Two Fingers

They were both done as studies during a time when I had very little time for sculpture and was primarily caring for our foster daugher.

Swaddled Portrait

Historical Works

I've included these works because they serve to paint a better picture of my aesthetic background. While these works exist and could be made available as castings, I would prefer, when time allows, to re-approach the work with my current methods rather than to try to preserve or propogate old work.

Drapery no. 5

This rather large (27x18 in.) drapery study is from 2009. While I quite enjoy both sculpting drapery and the final work, I've abstained from copying drapery since I completed this work. Work whose only purpose is beauty or formal interest has not been compelling enough for me, at least in a world of limited time and attention. It is beautiful to behold and satisfying to make, though.

Hairpin (wax sketch)

This little sketch from 2011 is typical of my 'wax period' (2010-2012): very rapidly modelled from imagination with a primary focus on gesture. I credit my wax period for finally getting me to start composing after spending my early years working strictly from life poses.

Hairpin (terracotta sketch)

Though I used wax heavily for a couple years, and have gone back and forth to plasticine a few times, my true love is clay.

I have made many unique terracottas over the years, but this third-scale sketch from 2014 was my first real attempt at a free-standing figure. It also gives a good feel for my earlier, more textured, impressionistic approach. The two-fingers sketch further up is probably the best example of what a quick sketch looks like for me today. The difference comes from a combination of using less-textured clays and less tools and having gained an increasingly clear formal understanding of the figure.

Also, while I eventually somewhat mastered the sort of gravity-defying magic needed to work without an armature on free-standing, hollow terracotta figures, I have found that working with an armature and casting instead of firing leads to much more control and flexibility. In other words, I am able to bend the work to match my intentions instead of bending my intentions to match the materials limitations.

Drawings

I'm very fond of drawings, but not very fond of drawing. I tend to enjoy it at the start but then get bogged down with the attempt to create an illusion. I perhaps would have the staying-power to master this skill if it were not that I find sculpture far easier and more rewarding.

Portrait Drawings

This is just a selection, there are more if you visit the drawings page directly.

The Future

I have as many new ideas as old ones to reclaim. Having spent years focusing more on generating compositional sketches than on making highly resolved works, I have to hold back from that tendency. This is why my focus right now is just on seeing through a couple projects at a time: currently these are Go Down Old Hannah and Distant Horizon.