I first came across Hannah Beerman’s work on Instagram (naturally, I guess, in 2022). Even through a screen, I was captivated by the strong presence and physicality of her colorful, wonky assemblages. I couldn’t stop scrolling through her feed, looking closely at each image.
I asked myself why these specific pieces were able to hold my attention for more than eight seconds, the current length of the average human attention span. Perhaps the bright colors were what initially brought me in, like how a kid in the cereal aisle of a grocery store is sooner to choose a rainbow Fruit Loops box than a beige Fiber One Original Whole Grain Bran one. (Nothing against bran).
Besides their vivid color, though, what was it about these delightfully random, multilayered assortments of oil and acrylic and fabric and photographs and glitter glue and colored pencil and found objects like hats or fishnets or balloons or pieces of pita bread or phone cords or curtains or sneakers ... (pause for breath) ... that was so intriguing, so powerful?
I came to this answer: I couldn’t figure them out. For far longer than eight seconds (a true feat, especially on Instagram, so kudos to Hannah), I tried to make connections between photographs, locate links between gestures, attach significance to certain found objects. Why did a hair dryer share a canvas with a stuffed animal fish? What did a zipper have to do with a bowl of fruit? (*Note: I do recognize the importance of looking at a piece of art and simply taking it in, not asking so many questions. However, I just graduated from art school, and so I am freshly brainwashed to practice this method of incessant interrogation. Hopefully I will grow out of this sooner rather than later).
I realized, though, that it was the uncertainty and unpredictability of Beerman’s pieces that was so fascinating. It was the eccentricity and weirdness that was so unique. It didn’t necessarily matter what a zipper had to do with a bowl of fruit. The work was about the whole and not its parts: a zipper plus a bowl of fruit, not a zipper and a bowl of fruit.
The whole is organic, playful, provoking, and fabulously inventive. Its surfaces are sticky and dense; its gestures are friendly and inviting. It’s intimate and personal. It’s quirky, energetic, funny, and sometimes wry. It can be interpreted differently by each person who looks at it (my perceived connections between a hair dryer and a stuffed animal fish must be different from Hannah’s, which must be different from another viewer’s).
The parts are interesting, sure, but the whole takes on a new life of its own, which is its success. Beerman’s work makes me think, and I love it for that.