“Humankind Cannot Bear,” a stop-motion piece by Hallie Bahn ’14, explores the passage of time in a shifting sand desert, which continually covers and then uncovers relics of the past to be given new life. Bahn’s talk in Horvitz Hall last Sunday, Feb. 4 functioned in a similar way, presenting work from her time at Kenyon side-by-side with projects from her recent professional work in design and management, as well as her personal work, at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD).
Bahn started as an executive assistant at Materials for the Arts in New York City, a nonprofit that implements reuse through distribution of donations of unneeded surplus supplies to arts programs and public schools.
Within three months, she took on other jobs around the warehouse, like managing the nonprofit’s finances, serving as lead photographer and designing annual reports and galas. Bahn’s artistic skill was used to demonstrate to recipients how nontraditional materials like pearls and plastic flowers can be reworked in new projects, because traditional materials like paint and pencils are not always available.
While working commercially, Bahn found fulfillment in her products by including “personal Easter eggs”: subtle, stylistic details. She said that at times it was challenging to hand off her work to others — clients sometimes requested changes to an intentional part of a design. This sometimes frustrating experience for a precise, detail-oriented artist revealed a valuable conclusion: Bahn found that she was eager to return to individual work.
“I like the fingerprints,” Bahn said of the little imperfections and minutiae that create the little worlds where her stories exist. “They might not be noted, but it’s important that I made them for my own clarification.”
With this realization, she returned to school to earn her MFA in Visual Studies at MCAD. Her decision to attend the school of art was as meticulous as her set building.
She explained to current Kenyon students her process of selection, from online research to making the most of a campus visit. She stressed the importance of experimentation in university, and made this a priority in her search. Bahn explained that she found herself looking for a similar space and structure to what she had at Kenyon.
“We are spoiled to have Horvitz,” she laughed, describing how some programs offer little studio space for graduate students.
Bahn attributes some of her skill and success to the liberal arts education at Kenyon. She believes that her ability to write is an edge above her peers from strictly art institutions because it strengthens her narratives. Some of her best works, she says, are from her time at Kenyon.
“Vultures,” Bahn’s first piece stop-motion piece features figurative silhouettes on a neutral background. The detailed figures tell the story of Bahn’s grandfather, who was sold for work in Russia but stowed away to New York.
This deceptively simple clip contains elements that appear throughout Bahn’s repertoire, such as complex narrative, intentional set design, extreme attention to detail and efficient storytelling. “Née Rabbit,” her most recent stop-motion work, uses these same elements to explore identity and memory during an amnesiac experience.
Bahn’s work is incisive and empathetic, effective in transmission and unparalleled in composition.