State of the arts: Hannah Dansie’s exhibition draws inspiration from folk tales

STORY TIME: Inspired by folklore from around the world, local painter Hannah Dansie enlisted a number of local artists as collaborators in her new show, The Fishwife. Pictured: "The Waitingmaid's Parrot" by Dansie

“Stories connect us to each other and to the very core of what makes us human,” says Hannah Dansie, who is inspired by both oral and literary traditions. “As a visual artist, I’ve always felt that painting is the best form of communication I have.” She named her upcoming show, The Fishwife — opening at The Satellite Gallery on Friday, Aug. 7 — after a story from a Grimm’s fairy tale that was read to her as a child.

The paintings in Dansie’s collection reflect that dreamy, eerie landscape where everyday scenarios meet magic: Fish are actually enchanted princes that grant poor villagers’ wishes, armless mothers give birth to sons with limbs of gold. In the painting The Blue Corn Maiden, the long, cornsilk hair of two women loops and twists around their bodies. Where their faces should be, there’s a starry night sky. In another work, a young girl framed by flowers weeps diamonds into her flowing, blond tresses.

While Dansie says that her work comes from a highly personal foundation, she was equally drawn to how these stories transcend the individual and connect cultures around the world. “When I first began working on this show, I thought that I would focus mainly on folklore from this area. But the more I read, the more I became interested in how many versions of the older folk tales there were coming from different countries,” she says. “The Armless Maiden” is the story on which Dansie and local artist Alli Good based a collaborative piece. The first version of the tale that Dansie found was “A Father Cuts Off His Daughters Arm,” from South Africa, which she describes as “a gruesome story about a journey of a young woman into adulthood.”

“I found this story fascinating in itself,” says Dansie, “but it was even more fascinating when I realized how many versions of this story had been told all over the world.” On that list: “The Girl Without Hands,” from Germany; “The Girl With Her Hands Cut Off,” from France; “Olive,” from Italy; “Doña Bernarda,” from Spain; “The Armless Maiden,” from Russia and “The Girl Without Arms,” from Japan.

Perhaps it makes sense then, that a collection inspired by shared tales would include collaborative art pieces. The Fishwife boasts contributions from local artists Sarah Cavalieri, Gus Cutty, Maxx Hawthorne-Fiest, Andy Herod, Nicole McConville, Josie Mosser, Lauren Patton and Ian Wilkinson. While Dansie admits that collaborating is a challenge, she says it’s one she enjoys and felt was essential for her show. “I realized that collaboration has always been a huge part of what I love about making art, so it seemed fitting that I should include it in this show as well,” she says. “Adding collaborations to this collection has given the show something I couldn’t have achieved on my own. Many of the stories that were chosen are very simple. It’s interesting to see what everyone has taken from them with the imagery they’ve created.” Dansie had already worked with Good, Cutty and Wilkinson at a mural show at Western Carolina University last summer, and with Cutty on a mural at Over Easy Cafe. Other pieces in The Fishwife represent Dansie’s first time teaming up with local artists she admires.

That spirit of cooperation is key: “Folklore is shared and passed down,” says Dansie. “The tales help to tell us who we are and how we see, interpret and interact with the world around us.”

She adds, “I hope that I have successfully captured this idea in my work while portraying how gorgeous and weird these stories really are.” 

WHAT: The Fishwife

WHERE: The Satellite Gallery,

WHEN: Opening reception on Friday, Aug. 7, 7-10 p.m. The show is on view through Sunday, Sept. 20


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About Lea McLellan
Lea McLellan is a freelance writer who likes to write stories about music, art, food, wellness and interesting locals doing interesting things.

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