Carol Hannum: Worlds Apart

ART REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

Carol Hannum is an underappreciated local treasure. Her art has been shown in museums and galleries and is in private and public collections worldwide, including many in Lacey and Olympia, and she has taught at South Puget Sound Community College. And yet a glance at her resume indicates she has not shown locally, other than a few pieces in the postcard shows at SPSCC, since 2004.

This show at the gallery at SPSCC is a retrospective exhibition of drawings, paintings, handmade journals and steel sculptures.

There are six steel sculptures in this show, which gallery director Sean Barnes said were literally dug up from Hannum’s yard where the bases were three to four inches underground. These rusted steel sculptures are icon- or totem-like abstract figures that stand majestically like warriors guarding the women and children depicted in watercolor and other media around the gallery walls. They are in a style reminiscent of the innovative mid-20th century sculptures of David Smith. Most stand approximately six to eight feet tall.

On the right-hand wall as you enter the gallery are five watercolor portraits of family members. On the surface, they are as sweet and delicate as calendar art or illustrations in children’s books. But that surface appearance is deceiving. Upon more careful study, one sees there is an underlying surrealistic bent to some of these portraits, and a bit of twisted humor — a hint at what is to come as one walks around the gallery and sees increasingly surrealistic and quirky stuff hidden below the sweet surface appearance. “Remembering Edgar Allen Poe” is a portrait of a woman identified in the signature line as “Baltimore Belle” with ravens collaged all over her. She holds a rolled-up document tied with a ribbon. The juxtaposition of sweetness and light with the mildly menacing ravens is shocking — a precursor to what’s to come in other works.

Along the back wall are even more surrealistic images of life-sized standing figures. Some are couples, and one of the pairings is a wedding picture. They are done with mixed-media with lithographs and collaged images and assemblages and are filled with unexpected imagery.

There is a group of small oil portraits including one depicting two faces behind stage curtains. There is a startlingly strange illusion of depth because it is unclear how near the people are, and there is a disparity between the size of the faces and the curtains. Looking at it is like being drawn into something otherworldly behind the curtain at which the faces give only a hint.

Finally, there are 25 hand-bound travel journals on a table with ink drawings and personal notes from trips all over the world (including some from area attractions right here in the South Sound) with chairs and an invitation to sit down and thumb through. Like much of the work in the show, these combine the familiar and comfortable with the unexpected.

This review appears courtesy The Weekly Volcano.



Carol Hannum: Worlds Apart


noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, through Oct. 19


Sound Community College, Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia




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