Documentation of moving the installation Becoming with: A rizomatic solar cart through the streets of New Orleans, 2019. Photo by Claire Bangser.
Message and Method: Hannah Chalew
In her short documentary video The Push (2019), artist Hannah Chalew, her mother, and four other women artist friends wheel Chalew’s approximately 11 × 5 × 8-foot mobile artwork, Becoming with: A rhizomatic solar cart (2019), from her New Orleans studio to her residency at Longue Vue House and Gardens, a three-mile trip. The cart resembles a lean-to whose sloped solar panels serve as a roof beneath which lies a functional water tank atop a bench-like platform. The group hauls the plucky cart across lots and fields, past intersections and cemeteries; but most of the trip takes place on roads in the midst of car traffic, which makes their cheerful caravan appear as out of place as a horse and buggy would on a highway.
This incongruous image is apt for an artist whose practice explores what it looks like to be partially alienated from the place in which you live while also having deep connections to it. Chalew’s dazzling maximalist drawings of southern Louisiana environs depict vistas in which realistic, above-ground terrain (trees in a park; a quiet suburban street) possess surrealistic, below-ground roots (an inverted petrochemical plant; a dense network of pipes in a toxic landfill). Her uncanny sculptures—sci-fi entanglements of plants, pipes, and plastics—also estrange the viewer’s perspective by positing a future in which abandoned human structures have yielded to debris-strewn flora. Through her community-oriented activism and art, and with a DIY ethos, Chalew makes past and present injustices visible so that the future might become something other than more of the same.
Go to BOMB interview here