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Karen Hanmer

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My sculptural books and installations fragment and layer content to mirror the experience of personal and cultural memory. The work often has a playful presentation, taking the form of puzzles, games, or decks of cards. It is made to be handled. The intimate scale and the gestures of exploration required to travel through a piece evoke the experience of looking through an album, a diary, or the belongings of a loved one.

The Farm series connects the viewer to the rural Midwestern landscape. It can also evoke a more personal connection to the land, along with memories of grandparents, great grandparents and the farming tradition. Successsion, Homestead and Section 19, Township 104, Range 28
chronicle both the milestones and the daily routine in the 90-year history of an immigrant farming family. Each piece requires a heightened level of engagement – leafing through a book whose pages are interleaved like grains on a stalk of wheat; winding forward and back through a movie-like, time traveling scroll; walking through rows of an installation that becomes a walk around the boundaries of
one’s farm to evaluate the progress of their crops.

The playful Big River takes the form of a child’s pocket game. The viewer maneuvers the box to position each of the balls into a divot corresponding to a city mentioned in the Johnny Cash song, Big River, where the lovesick narrator chases his woman down the Mississippi River, missing her at every port.

Another series of work explores our cultural experience of the development of technology through first person accounts and artifacts. It is a living thing documents interviews with software engineers regarding what they find beautiful or compelling about well-written software and the act of programming. Quotes are accurately printed and “punched” on giant replicas of computer cards. Two books encompass the history of manned flight. Secrets of Flight combines photographs and text from the Wright Brothers’ own documentation of the first manned, powered flight. Destination Moon contrasts John F. Kennedy's "Man on the Moon by the end of the decade" speech with a pop song about a couple’s romantic trip to the moon.

Recent solo exhibition venues include The Center for Book Arts, Duke University, The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and University of the West of England, Bristol (2006). Recent group exhibition venues include the Wichita Art Museum, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, the Newberry Library, University of Washington, and traveling exhibitions sponsored by the Guild of Bookworkers,
the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists' Guild, and Ireland’s Wexford Arts Centre. Hanmer has exhibited internationally in Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Faroe Islands.

Hanmer holds a degree in Economics from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She has studied at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts and with several Chicago photographers and bookbinders.
Karen Hanmer
Chicago, IL
North America

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