Sheldon Statewide: Betty Hahn
Learn more about a work from the 2022-2023 Sheldon Statewide exhibition, “On The Road Again.” This print is titled "Road and Rainbow" and was made by Betty Hahn in 1971. Sheldon Statewide is an annual program through which artworks from the museum’s collection travel to venues throughout Nebraska. Since its inception in 1987, the program has taken exhibitions to 25 communities, reaching more than 365,000 people. “On The Road Again” will be presented in Chadron, North Platte, McCook, Grand Island, York, Beatrice, Fremont, and Falls City.
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[00:00:08.550]Photography occupies a unique place
[00:00:10.620]in the history of art in two particular ways.
[00:00:13.650]Firstly, it was not considered to be a fine art,
[00:00:16.470]like painting or sculpture, for a long time.
[00:00:19.470]Secondly, because of the technological nature
[00:00:23.040]this medium has been subject to a great deal
[00:00:25.320]of experimentation and hybridization.
[00:00:27.990]We can observe this latter point
[00:00:29.370]in Betty Hahn's, "Road and Rainbow."
[00:00:32.400]By the time Betty Hahn
[00:00:33.630]fully entered the world of photography,
[00:00:35.790]it was indeed considered a respectable art form,
[00:00:38.303]but there was still plenty
[00:00:39.810]of experimentation and exploration to be done.
[00:00:43.440]Hahn's first camera,
[00:00:44.273]a Kodak Brownie gifted to her by her Aunt Marcella
[00:00:47.430]when she was 10 years old,
[00:00:48.785]opened the doors to a long career in photography.
[00:00:52.530]Hahn lived for some time in Rochester, New York,
[00:00:55.140]where companies like Kodak and Xerox
[00:00:57.450]were constantly breaking ground
[00:00:59.070]in the technology of photography and print reproductions.
[00:01:02.451]Because of this,
[00:01:03.540]there was a thriving community of artists there,
[00:01:05.617]such as Alice Wells and Robert Fichter,
[00:01:08.820]within which Hahn immersed herself.
[00:01:10.944]She taught photography and design
[00:01:12.960]at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf
[00:01:15.551]and the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences.
[00:01:19.080]She also experimented in her own creative practice
[00:01:21.900]by processing her prints differently
[00:01:23.640]and adding unique materials.
[00:01:25.736]"Road and Rainbow" is a gum bichromate print,
[00:01:29.730]which means that Hahn combined gum arabic,
[00:01:32.393]a natural tacky material harvested from trees,
[00:01:35.942]a dichromate chemical, such as potassium,
[00:01:38.940]and pigment for color.
[00:01:40.830]She then used this mixture in the printing process,
[00:01:43.500]transferring her design to a piece of cloth.
[00:01:46.200]The result is this delicate, effective photographic print.
[00:01:49.967]Hahn then enhanced her print further
[00:01:52.440]by adding embroidery thread to select parts of the image,
[00:01:55.650]to highlight textures and add color.
[00:01:58.350]The double yellow line on the road
[00:02:00.060]immediately gives this work
[00:02:01.320]an iconic, realistic aesthetic of travel.
[00:02:04.165]The embroidered siding and roof of the building
[00:02:06.900]on the edge of the road,
[00:02:08.160]increased the realism of the scene.
[00:02:10.261]And of course the rainbow brings whimsy and joy
[00:02:12.780]to the composition.
[00:02:14.716]After her time in Rochester,
[00:02:16.770]Hahn went on to have multiple solo exhibitions of her work,
[00:02:19.980]and win grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
[00:02:22.942]She accepted a teaching position
[00:02:25.080]at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1976,
[00:02:29.580]and taught there until retirement.
[00:02:31.685]Hahn still lives and keeps the studio in Albuquerque
[00:02:34.950]where she is part of the artistic community
[00:02:36.960]that she described as an interview as,
[00:02:39.457]"An amazing network,
[00:02:40.890]little dots on the map and little lines connecting them."
[00:02:44.640]In that same interview,
[00:02:45.780]Hahn realized that her work is always about
[00:02:48.270]her own self in some way.
[00:02:50.227]"Writers make autobiographies and keep journals.
[00:02:53.190]I do this in my art."
[00:02:55.301]It was in New Mexico at the museum in Santa Fe
[00:02:58.620]that she was recognized with a retrospective exhibition
[00:03:01.500]of her 30-year career.
[00:03:03.840]This exhibition was entitled
[00:03:05.167]"Betty Hahn: Photography or Maybe Not,"
[00:03:07.920]in a humorous nod to her constant experimentation
[00:03:10.860]and exploration of photography,
[00:03:12.900]and the way she expanded the medium.
[00:03:15.540]Looking at the other photographs in this exhibition,
[00:03:18.240]how do you think Betty Hahn's work stands out?
[00:03:22.470]How do her additions to the image change your perception?
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