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Hannah Marchio
Hannah Marchio. photo by Tim Fitzgerald

Honest Art

by Teresa Gleason

Shapes.  Patterns.  Textures.  Processes.

Hannah Marchio views the world through her own internal kaleidoscope.  She is drawn to the symmetry of a freshly cut lawn, the detail in a length of rope, the structure of an internal organ.

"I don't think you have to be tortured or live in a tower to be an artist," she said.  "Art doesn't have to be serious or dramatic or romanticized.  That's not what it's about any more."

For Marchio, a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), it's about encouraging the public to grasp things of a conceptual nature, about stewing over an idea for a good long while and then executing it, about expanding her reach as an artist.  Oftentimes, it's about serving as an outlet for her nervous energy.

"I like doing crafty, lap-sized things," she said of her approach to her work.  "I want to be able to sit at a table and make something. I don't mind doing repetitive things that a lot of people find irritating."

Honesty is standard fare for this slender, deliberate Iowan from Council Bluffs.  Raised in a self-described working class family, Marchio's mother tried to instill an appreciation for the arts in each of her children.  Theatre, concerts and trips to museums were frequent.  For the shy, reserved Hannah, however, the thought of acting in a play or singing in a choir was overwhelming.  She preferred the independence associated with the creation of art.  "It's something you can do by yourself," she said.

After studying at the University of Iowa and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Marchio found herself at UNO, where – in addition to attending classes – she began working in the UNO Art Gallery.  The process of preparing for an exhibition appealed to the process-oriented artist.  "I like everything from hanging and lighting the shows to patching little holes in the gallery walls," Marchio said.

Her gallery work, coupled with guidance from art and art history faculty David Helm and Bonnie O'Connell, helped Marchio find her creative voice through printmaking and sculpture.  "I began to really like where I was and what I was doing," she said.

For the past six months, Marchio – flanked by Oscar, her bulldog, and cats Pickles and Julian – has been working on her senior thesis project, a requirement of all studio arts majors at UNO.  Her studio is the basement of her home, a small, cement-floored room.  One wall is neatly covered by shelves filled with "stuff" – materials Marchio has collected for use in her art projects.  She's quick to point out that her worktable and chair are positioned so she can watch television from a small set in the corner. 

"That's something that some people don't admit – that they can work without having 100 percent of their attention focused on their art," she said.

Titled "Component and Capacity," Marchio's senior thesis uses two mediums – printmaking and sculpture – to execute the same concept.  She found her inspiration in the textbooks of her husband, Paul, a medical student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.  The two met as students at UNO.  "I like the diagrams and charts they contain, because there is so much happening within the body that you never get to see – it's so complex," she said.

In her series of prints, which cover an entire wall in the UNO Art Gallery, six individual designs have been repeated on 9"x12" sheets, with 25 prints to a set.  The sheets were then assembled in a pattern that matches the opening of a shape on one sheet to the opening of a shape on an adjacent sheet.

Her sculpture, which mimics the anatomical, intestinal form of her print wall, involves about eight bales – at 2,250 feet per bale – of wrapped and knotted twine.  The only impediments to working with twine, Marchio said, are its itchy quality and tendency to shed, coupled with the fact that Pickles liked to curl up in the sculpture during its construction.

She hopes those who view this work will walk away with a sense of its overwhelming – but not overbearing – quality.  "I'd like them to feel that this form has taken on a life of its own, that it's seeped into every last little bit of space it possibly can," she said.

And, if that's asking too much of the general public, Marchio would settle for an acceptance of her intent. 

"I wish people wouldn't question whether something is or isn't art – it would be nice if they could try and recognize the intent of the artist and then give it a shot from there," she said.

Marchio will obtain her bachelor of fine arts degree in studio arts this  May. She plans on eventually attending graduate school in New York City.  And, in typical Marchio form, she will be taking her honesty east. 

"The big secret they don't tell you is that a lot of artists have other jobs – waiting tables, driving taxis," Marchio said.  "They leave that part out to make it sound more romantic.  I just want to expand my abilities as an artist."

* * * * *

The Spring 2005 BFA Thesis Exhibition opens Friday, April 8, at the UNO Art Gallery.  An opening reception will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  The show runs through May 6.  The UNO Art Gallery is located on the first floor of the Weber Fine Arts Building.  Admission is free and open to the public.  Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 4 p.m., Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.  Excluding reserved stalls, UNO parking lots are free and open to visitors on Sunday afternoons.  For more information, contact Deborah-Eve Lombard at (402) 554-2796.

Teresa Gleason is director of communications at UNO.  She can be reached at tmgleason@mail.unomaha.edu.

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