MATRESCENCE Artist Feature Interviews // DARCI HANNA


Darci Hanna speaks with Matresence curator Catherine LeComte Lecce:



1.) Can you share your background and artistic journey with us, particularly regarding your evolution as an artist? Your practice spans various mediums, such as painting and ceramics.

I’ve loved drawing, sculpting, and working with textiles since I was a child. The women in my family were always making things and I absorbed a lot from watching their creativity and mimicking their broad-ranging skills. I studied both studio art and art history as an undergraduate, and focused on jewelry and metalsmithing. I went to graduate school for art history and did curatorial work for over a decade after. I took workshops and did projects at home whenever I could in my free time, but eventually it felt like it wasn’t enough. I started making work more seriously again a few years ago and it felt like coming home, like rediscovering a part of myself that had been dormant for a bit. I get so excited by learning how everything is made, I research historical techniques and I’m also fascinated by cutting-edge technology. I love art so much because I love seeing human creativity manifested in all its possible forms.



2.) Can you walk us through your artistic process for your featured piece, Exalted/Exposed, in Matresence? What inspired the work?


Exalted/Exposed was inspired by my experiences as a struggling new mom, trying to learn how to breastfeed, and navigating the complicated cultural boundaries that I discovered while attempting to feed my child. Doctors encourage breastfeeding and mothers who struggle (or are unable or unwilling to breastfeed) feel shamed. Breastfeeding is something that “quote-unquote” good mothers are supposed to do. And sometimes we’re put on a pedestal for it, but many people are also uncomfortable when babies are fed in public. 


Infants need to eat every couple of hours, they can’t wait, but what if you are on a bus or a plane? or in a room with extended family or male friends? or in a busy location with no place for any privacy? In the early days of navigating this new terrain in public and encountering wildly different reactions from people, I felt lauded and exposed, objectified and discouraged, proud and unsure, often in quick succession.



3.) What specific challenges did you encounter when you first became a mother while also balancing your career as an artist?


I was working full-time as a curator when I became a mom, which had its own challenges.



4.) What advice would you give to other mother/parent artists?


Everyone’s situation is unique but if I could advise my past- self, I’d say “keep pushing forward.” Caretaking work can be so exhausting and it’s hard to find time for creative pursuits, but if artmaking fills your cup, it’s so important to find ways to fit it in somehow. There are seasons to life, so maybe you won’t be able to do much with a newborn in your arms or a toddler underfoot, but making space to express your creativity will help you feel like yourself. When my children were very young, it was all I could do to carve out an occasional hour after bedtime and chores to work on something at my kitchen table, but that hour was bliss for me.



5.) How do you think society’s perception of motherhood and artistry has evolved, and what changes would you like to see in how mother artists are supported and recognized?


I’d like to say that it’s much easier to be an artist and a mother now than in the past, but I’m not sure that’s entirely true in the United States. There are still plenty of stereotypes and biases against women artists that are reflected across the art world. The statistics for women in the arts are not good, even without the added challenges of motherhood. Surveys show that 87% of artists in prominent U.S. museums are male (and 85% are also white). Less than 14% of living artists represented by galleries in North America and Europe are women and 96% of artworks sold at auction are by men. Most residencies exclude mothers if they need childcare in order to work. And although three-quarters of fine arts degrees go to women, they make up less than 50% of working artists in the U.S.