Thesis Project: Hannah Altman
Hannah Altman’s work brings to mind collective identity and the intricate bonds we share within our chosen community. Her visual poetics bring to life photos that extend beyond what we might see in her images. Her sensitivity to light, gesture, and expression bring out the familial recollections she talks about in her artist statement and the generous intimacy of her portraits invoke the empathy necessary to engage in work like this.
Jewish thought suggests that the memory of an action is as primary as the action itself. This is to say that when my hand is wounded, I remember other hands. I trace ache back to other aches – when my mother grabbed my wrist pulling me across the intersection, when my great-grandmother’s fingers went numb on the ship headed towards Cuba fleeing the Nazis, when Miriam’s palms enduringly poured water for the Hebrews throughout their desert journey – this is how the Jew is able to fathom an ache. Because no physical space is a given for the Jewish diaspora, time and the rituals that steep into it, are centered as a mode of carrying on. The bloodline of a folktale, an object, a ritual, pulses through interpretation and enactment. In this work I explore notions of Jewish memory, narrative heirlooms, and image making; the works position themselves in the past as memories, in the present as stories being told, and in the future as actions to interpret and repeat. To encounter an image in this way is not only to ask what it feels like, but to ask: what does it remember like?
Hannah Altman is a Jewish-American artist from New Jersey. Her work interprets relationships between gestures, the body, interiority, and lineage, exploring the structures that perpetuate them using photographic-based media. She has recently exhibited with the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Blue Sky Gallery, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and Junior High Gallery. Her work has been published in the Carnegie Museum of Art Storyboard, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, and British Journal of Photography, among others. She has delivered lectures on her work and research across the country, including Yale University and the Society for Photographic Education National Conference. She is the 2019 recipient of the Bertha Anolic Israel Travel Award and 2020 MFA candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Keep up with Hannah Altman here.
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