Hannah Barrett’s Monsters Envision a World Beyond Gender



Hannah Barrett, “Inspo”(2022), oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches (all pictures courtesy Schoolhouse Gallery, until in any other case famous; photograph by Chris Kendell)

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — In particular person, Hannah Barrett’s sensible and witty work ship exceedingly in gentle and shade. Barrett, just like the celebrated painter Remedios Varos, builds science-fiction worlds in jewel-like paint. I additionally see in these works the flat areas of Sixties cartoons.

The works on view in Barrett’s current exhibition at Schoolhouse Gallery are populated by “monsters” — invented creatures of all types — that arrived through the artist’s creativeness. Is it doable that demons and otherworldly creatures talk via our desires and daydreams? Are these monsters sacred guardian spirits or manifestation demons who lock themselves of their chambers to put in writing books? (A “manifestation demon” is a spirit who helps you get issues performed on command.) Do these owl-faced creatures with clawed toes and arms go to an intergalactic Star Wars bar scene, the place the scariest-looking ones become probably the most civil and sort? Barrett’s work undoubtedly alludes to those mysteries. 

In “Far Away” (2022), we go to a blue and white Wedgewood world through which the ruffled and bowed creature with fin-like ears, sporting a chevron-patterned swimsuit, retains information, probably for ships within the yellow background. “Inspo” and “One Ring” once more depict protagonists in a bureaucratic area. The previous creature, bearing facial hair, a tie, and different masculine markers that distinction with their purple banana curls, sits amid a wall of ledgers. I think about that the latter — inexperienced skinned, furry chinned, bouffant haired, and femme dressed — retains accounts, effectively answering a Twentieth-century phone after a single ring.

Different settings are extra fantastical: Within the portray “Folly” (2020), an ambigendered straw particular person seemingly out of a blue and inexperienced Land of Oz bears a resemblance to the tarot card of The Idiot; and within the “Darkish Home,” a personality carrying a strawberry bib appears to be in an austere palace.

Barrett’s monsters subvert the gender binary by combining masculine dandy finery with excessive femme parts; the work serve up a brand new illustration of the nonbinary (as in each “not subscribing to binaries” and “my gender is none of your small business”). Symbols level to hidden meanings: In “Uncommon Books” (2023), phrases are spelled backwards (nova, sol), like secret messages. This sense is underscored by Barrett’s juxtaposition of the fanciful creatures with the trimmings of paperwork or state establishments. They symbolize a contingent of queer librarians, archivists, and historians who disguise in plain sight.

For all who see themselves in Barrett’s topics, the unusual, colourful areas they inhabit — an otherworldly tackle institutional workplaces — create the sort of magic that gives solace to gender-nonconforming individuals and anybody, earthly or intergalactic, who’s seeking a spot to belong. 

Hannah Barrett, “Folly” (2020), oil on canvas, 52 x 48 inches (photograph by Pete Mauney)
Hannah Barrett, “One Ring” (2022), oil on canvas, 28 x 22 inches (photograph by Chris Kendell)
Hannah Barrett, “Hindsight” (2020), oil on canvas, 50 x 48 inches (photograph by Pete Mauney)
Hannah Barrett, “Uncommon Books” (2023), oil on linen, 24 x 20 inches (photograph by Chris Kendell)
Hannah Barrett in entrance of (left) “First Draft” (2018) and (proper) “The Darkish Home” (2020) (photograph Shelley Marlowe/Hyperallergic)

Hannah Barrett continues at Schoolhouse Gallery (494 Business Road, Provincetown, Massachusetts) via August 9. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.


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