Hannah Yata Paints Polymorphic Faces of Nature
Inside the beautiful and wild works of the powerful artist.
Nature, mystery, magic, and the feminine. These are some of the words that come to mind when trying to describe the world Hannah Yata composes with her art. With her hybrid creatures; half woman, half animal, she explores symbolism, emotion, and reflection of the elements that create life. You can get lost in wonder looking at her paintings, they are provocative with a sense of mystery, curiosity and power. Her art evokes and invites you to step inside her ethereal, mystical and at times, psychedelic world.
Coffee or tea? Tea
First thing you do when you wake up? Make coffee.
Hidden talent? Dancing like a fool.
Must have for your creative process? Rabbits.
When did you know you wanted to become an artist professionally?
I didn't realize becoming a professional artist was a career choice until I was in my first year of college. Up until then, I had always been told art was a hobby and never knew it was a career choice. But, once I knew I could become a full-time artist, I never looked back.
You grew up in a religious family, but excommunication later followed; How would you say this change in your life influenced your art the most?
Growing up in a religious family and later getting kicked out completely upended my view on polarities. In fundamentalist religions, they teach you that everything is either black or white, i.e. good vs. evil. I was taught that the only good people were Jehovah's Witnesses, and everyone else was under the influence of the devil. I had to completely reevaluate people with differing belief systems and ways of life. I realized everything this religion had taught me about the outside world and the people who didn't believe in it was false. I would say this shook my perception of reality itself was shaken to its very core, which probably lends my work to its very early psychedelic slant. Art was the way to express my struggle with reality, identity, psychological disintegration, and revolution that followed with integrating into mainstream society. I woke up to a whole new view of beauty and compassion in a world that I had taught was evil and damned.
You and your husband, Jean Pierre Arboleda, presented a duel-solo exhibit called No Man's Land; What was it like to collaborate with each other?
We're always collaborating even if we're not working on a show. We constantly share thoughts and ideas, so having a show together seemed very natural. Also, it was beautiful to have a show with someone you love so dearly and share the same values with, so the work tends to seamlessly flow together.
A lot of your paintings feature mythological type characters that appear to be a hybrid of women and nature. How did you conceptualize this kind of subject matter?
My hybrids of women, masks, and animal characters are the polymorphic faces of nature. It conceptualizes these spirits in anthropomorphic forms with a mix of symbolism, emotion, and reflection. Women are a potent symbol of the feminine, and the feminine is a creative force; an affirmation of life. Yet, she is also a symbol of change, death, seasons, and her body is a relationship to time and lunar phases. It's a deep well of feminine energy that I'm drawing from and still seeking to understand through the artistic process.
Do you have a favorite piece?
It's tough to pick out a favorite. It would be easy to say one of my larger pieces would be my favorite because of the amount of thought and energy I put into them. The scale also brings you to a different level in terms of exhilaration. However, if I were to pick out a piece that wasn't on a momentous scale, I would have to choose the Transfiguration. The expressions and energy in this piece give me so much delight. It also captures the essence of the psychedelic mushroom goddess that comes to me in this kind of Trickster personality.
What is the most fulfilling part of your work?
I love being able to share a love of art with others so getting to meet people is probably the most rewarding part. I tend to be very critical of my work, so listening to different ideas or emotional reactions to my paintings is very humbling and exciting.
What has been the most challenging painting that you've done?
The most recent large piece, "The Adoration of Spring." I tend to dive into these large pieces with a loose composition study and a vague idea of how the lighting and colors will go. Most artists these days either have tons of composition studies or an almost finished photoshop or digital workup of the piece. That would be the ideal way to do things. Instead, I tend to go in mostly blind and figure things out as I lay them in. It's impulsive to work this way, but I like interacting with the canvas on a large scale, and I find other ways tedious and stifling.
How do you think art impacts society?
Art seems to act like a mirror, an undercurrent of the subconscious brought to light. I think what we value in art reflects our values as a culture. Personally, I would love to believe art could inspire society to reflect on life's deeper questions and appreciate a profound sense of wonder about the world.
Do you ever run into creative blocks? If so, how do you overcome it?
I haven't really ran into creative blocks- and if I do, I think it's usually because of exhaustion and a need to physically and mentally recharge. A lot of this involves getting out of the house, reading, traveling, gardening, and tinkering around with silly projects. Reading tends to be one of my primary sources of inspiration and passion as a passion for ideas fuels me.
What inspires you the most?
Renaissance, baroque, Dutch old master paintings.
How else do you like to spend your time when you're not working?
I think I enjoy working in the garden, by the lake, or in the woods most of my free time. My garden is mostly my haven as it gives me time to soak up the sun, reflect, sweat, and get covered in dirt.
What would you be doing as a career if you weren't an artist?
I would love to be working with animals or plants in some close capacity.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a few paintings. One of these paintings is a third large piece encumbered with birds inspired by the poem the Conference of the Birds by Attar. There's a lot of chaos going on, but I'm enjoying it since I have no deadlines at the moment.