Rising Art: Hannah Chalew’s Foot-A-Night
Inside Fair Folks and A Goat, a Marigny B&B, art gallery, and cafe, artist Hannah Chalew has worked tirelessly, feet and feet a night, creating a leafy fabric container for guests in the converted double shotgun.
Foot-A-Night consists of Chalew's sewn and cut fabric vines entangling the guest bedroom at Fair Folks. The vines don't necessarily mimic Kudzu, Wisteria, or Cat's Claw specifically, but they are as many and as varied as those found in nature. Preparing for Foot-A-Night, Chalew coated out bed sheets and tablecloths, amassing as many different greens as she could blend--chartreuse, lime, hunter, kelly, army, jade. She stripped, painted and shaped the cloth in a thousand ways.
Chalew is fascinated by the vine takeover of the post-Katrina landscape and the tension between organic growth and human construction. She is committed to drawing from life, always scouting locations, whether a neighbor's property in nature's clutches, or an abandoned factory. She often draws in places you'd be surprised to see anyone just sitting alone, like the neutral ground, or across from dilapidated buildings--any place with the "view" she seeks.
In fact, when she and I met both seeking studio space last summer, she showed me a huge drawing she did on Canal St. below Broad in the new hospital area. “Hey!” I said, “I live right behind there!” and pointed out my house in her drawing.
Last year, Chalew made observational 3-D pieces that had proximity to the wall, but were steadily growing outward. She took her fascination with "Nature's Slow Takeover" to the Vermont Studio Center, where she had a residency in November. Channeling New Orleans, she began sewing vines and draping them over a tent structure. Her vines began to inhabit not just drawings, but real space.
For Foot-A-Night, Chalew wanted the furniture pieces in the installation to be structural. She learned how to weld in order to take her installation a step further, and make the table and chair she wanted to cover with vines actually usable in the guest room.
That's Chalew's practice: she is very good at acquiring the resources she needs to complete a project as she sees fit. Trained in painting and drawing at NOCCA and Brandeis University, she taught herself how to sew in order to draw with fabric. Like the vines she studies, Chalew is rapidly rooting herself here. She has developed a network of carpenters, welders, sculptors, architects, people with access to movie set props, and people with trucks.
While in Vermont, a friend helping her to build the tent structure she erected, asked why she didn't just use camouflage netting--the overall look would be similar. Because, that wouldn't be Chalew's way. She finds some necessity in the painting, cutting, stitching, and sewing.
She re-used the vines from her Vermont installation and made plenty of new ones, making the vines feel like they were taking over the room. She spent the night in the room while working on it and watched the green grow. She even extended the vines out the window of the room and across the ivy covered alley along the house to greet guests.
Fair Folks and a Goat is committed to making opportunities for the artists it provides venue for. So when Chalew's installation didn't involve any sellable products, Fair Folks offered to split half the yield of each night guests spend in the cozy room. People paying for a room will commune with the work. The vines make for a space that is both vibrant and contemplative.
During the opening, the room was a very relaxed, warm, enveloping space. It was a night in nature, without the mosquitoes, and with a plush queen mattress. I began to take portraits of people who planted themselves on the chair in the corner.