Portrait of the Artist

Amelia Hankin


By Noelani Kirschner | May 6, 2019
Vigil, 2018, screenprint on drafting film, dimensions vary
Vigil, 2018, screenprint on drafting film, dimensions vary

American University professor Amelia Hankin works in a variety of media. An example of her multidisciplinary approach can be seen in her most recent series, Vigil. Here, she discusses how being a new parent has influenced her work, why she believes in superstition, and what it’s like to create art in the middle of the night.

“I was primarily focused on etchings in the beginning, but I moved on to explore other print media. Before I started screenprinting, I dabbled in woodblock printing. In graduate school, I studied in Japan and learned Eastern woodblock printing techniques. A lot of the sensibilities from that I brought to screenprinting. I loved the aesthetic look and the subtle dimension created by an overlay of colors. My work became much more pattern-based with screenprinting. I started doing larger pieces and used the technique as a tool to create environmental pieces. That’s kind of where I am today—I’m still using screenprinting 10 years later because my work is installation-focused.

  • Fortune Teller, 2018, Screenprint, mannequin, folded paper, fishing line; wall piece: 62" x 62" x 1/2"; floor Piece: 72" x 17" x 5."

The series Vigil originated with the piece Fortune Teller that came about because I was asked to participate in an exhibit in which we had to incorporate a mannequin into the finalized piece. At the same time, I became a new parent and was navigating the world of raising a child and thinking of all the responsibility that involved. So Fortune Teller became a self-portrait. I wanted to be able to predict the future and make sure things were okay. I was reconsidering my identity, too: Who was I? What was at the forefront of my identity? I was trying to find a balance between being a new parent, an artist, and an educator. I thought back to childhood and the innocence of it, and how I used to create paper fortune tellers, those fun, playful little things that we irrationally believed could predict the future.  I used fortune tellers all over the mannequin to make it look like a form rising up from the ground and invading the audience’s space.

The other works in the series came about as support pieces for Fortune Teller. I was thinking about superstition and how it’s a part of American and global culture. After becoming a parent, I noticed that I had to have order—so I cleaned more obsessively, knowing that I needed more control over my environment. As a rational person, I know that keeping a locket of hair or a dreamcatcher by the window isn’t going to do anything, but I’m still going to do it because of the what ifs. I started introducing those motifs into my work. There are lots of feathers, dreamcatchers, fortune tellers, and butterflies (which represent regeneration). I was working on this series late at night, and that was kind of the only time I could find peace and quiet. I titled it Vigil because I was the only one up in my neighborhood in the middle of the night while I was working. It felt dreamlike.”

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