Hannah Yata is a traditional artist / illustrator who loves to work with the feminine form. As she approaches the idea of femininity she brings with it her own experiences growing up as a woman and the difficulties and struggles that she has fought. Themes of extravagant desire are further developed in Yata’s most recent work. For me, her composition succeeds at evoking a sense of urgency and sensuality. I just HAD to feature her in the Creative Spotlight. Luckily for me, she was happy to oblige. Read the full Q&A below…
How did you find yourself in Brooklyn? Is this the ideal place for you as an artist?
Hannah: I found myself in Brooklyn because I found a group of artists I basically call family. For the longest time working my way through college I was disenchanted by the way students and artists interacted with each other. Maybe it was the environment, maybe it was just all the wrong people… but when I interned for Martin Wittfooth and Adam Miller a couple of years ago I was immediately captivated by their passion they had for art and their genuinity as people. They also introduced me to many other artists around Brooklyn and there’s no words to describe these guys but FUCKING AMAZING.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing. You stated you encountered struggles as a woman that translates into your work drawing the female form.
Hannah: That idea can go on a deeply personal level or on a day to day basis. I think I prefer to keep my ideas universal than go on a deeply personal level. Sure, I think my work is more compelling because I have extremely strong emotions about my experiences that translates into my work. However, I think I’ve come to this point that I really worry about women, especially young girls, and the environment they’re growing up in. When I was growing up I didn’t have a lot of access to internet or TV, and I lived in a small town. I can’t imagine the pressures that young girls have today with much, MUCH more media and aggressive advertising. With all of these ideas and media on top of that you have men becoming more dominating and antagonistic in treating women since women in this world have become so objectified.
So when looking at your work, can an audience aside from feminists and socialists, get a strong reaction from your work as well?
Hannah: I hope so. I’m not a drama queen but my emotions run deep. Translating that emotion with paint and color is something I love doing since it connects me with people. Sure, sometimes I have pieces that tend to be a little more strong and “defensive”— but in the end I always want to have elements that invite the viewer to look closer, connect with some sort of emotion, and draw on their own experience.
Is it a bit daunting to create such physical layered art with so many underlying themes? Does creating art more suited for simplicity not interest you?
Hannah: It’s daunting if you over think it. However I stick to the “surreal” sensibilities in that if an idea pops into my head I rush to a canvas to lay it down. I hardly ever do preliminary sketches of any sort unless I have no canvas available. From laying a figure down I work with the background, and from there I add all of the small craziness like leaves, flowers, butterflies, birds, etc. I fight with the canvas a lot because I’m trying to carve out a very fuzzy idea. My last painting “BLOOM,” that was whole scene was made to be underwater with jellyfish and a completely different figure. I ended up completely covering over 2/3rds of the canvas because the light and colors weren’t working for me. Very frustrating but I think it turned out well.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or anime?
Hannah: I happened upon Akira the other day and was blown away by it. Great movie!
And for someone who is new to your work, what symbolism does fish represent in your work and the duality with the human form?
Hannah: Fish. I look at fish and their expression is so blank, but sad… like mock morose. I’m drawn to them because of their beauty but also the way this unchanging face of theirs becomes like a mask. We don’t think of them as sentient creatures, we easy kill them without a second thought while the rest of society lobbies for the humane treatment of cows, chickens and pigs. Not that I’m saying anything is wrong with that— I definitely don’t know what the right answers are. However, my work the parallels of representing women – gaping, open receptive mouths, and obscured or blank eyes was all too reminiscent of the fish I loved that seemed to have no sentient qualities. Fish have also been the forgotten ones in the argument about the environment until lately. It’s funny because our seas supply an estimated 2/3rds of our oxygen. Everyone cries for the trees but our oceans are ravaged. Floating continents of garbage, huge dead patches of sea life, oil spills that haven’t been cleaned up but rather diffused into the water with toxic chemicals…
I think this overall worry about forgetting about certain things and ambivalent attitudes has led me to work with the duality of not only women in society but the worry in how we are dominating and destroying our environment.
You participated in a show a few weeks back entitled, ‘Fauna’. Did you learn anything about the subject of nature and wildlife through other artists that you can incorporate into your future works?
Hannah: Of course! Seeing how other people use wildlife inspires me to get more diverse. I don’t particularly want to be tied down to fish. I know I may always have them in my work here and there- but I definitely like to branch out and explore different ideas and animals.
Could you tell us a bit about your parents and their role in your artistic influence? What are their thoughts on your pieces?
Hannah: I can’t say I’ve ever been close to my parents. Definitely less so now. My dad lives in Japan and my mom… well, is on a different planet. My dad never let us have TV as kids, but he always gave us creative outlets- he bought us an electric guitar, a drum set, markers, paints, canvas, piano lessons… there was never a shortage of things to play with. Even though I was mostly always trespassing on the neighbor’s horse farm or making forts in the forest, I think that part of my life definitely has its roots deep in my work. I definitely probably have to thank my dad a lot for my creativity. My mother is deeply religious… so while she can probably appreciate the beauty I‘m not really sure she cares for the message.
What’s ahead for you looking into early 2014?
Hannah: Hopefully a solo show at some point… but I’m not going to rush it.
Lastly, any advice you can offer up to any struggling artists?
Hannah: Jesus, I’m still a struggling artist [laughs]. What I hear and what I practice is dogged perseverance and a good attitude. You don’t make friends or make good connections with other artists or galleries by being an asshole and acting like your work is the shit. There’s always someone out there better than you, and you need other people. I know painters, especially, are prone to this idea of genius because our craft tends to be so independent. The best advice I could give your is be open, take chances, and keep going.
Want more? Of course you do. Hannah’s official site is below: