Interview with Model + Painter // Hannah Vandermolen

Photographer Roeg Cohen shares with us his intimate portraits of model // painter Hannah Vandermolen in her studio as she works on her newest painting.  Hannah is one of our absolute favorite souls.  Her intensity and passion pour out of every click of the camera and every drop of paint.  Let’s listen in on this conversation between photographer and stimulus.

Hi Hannah. Tell me where you are, and what you do?
I’m an artist and model, living in New York City.

Do you find that modeling serves your work as an artist? And vice-versa? Or are each an extension of each other?
Modeling and art certainly influence each other. I find that the two continually inspire and influence each other. As a painter I have a sense of shape and form and what I would like from my subjects – information I’ve gathered from my experience modeling.  As a model I try to inspire the photographer and designer, as I would want to be inspired by my subject. I think both practices have really helped me grow as an artist overall.

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After we did the photos for this project, I spent the weekend with you and some of your friends at your family farm in New Hampshire. You seem very content and happy in the country. What is the balance between the two?
I am a person, who since childhood has always needed a small form of escape from stress. Being in NYC is an awesome opportunity, in that it thrusts me into the mix with other brilliant, inspiring, creative types. But it also can be very frustrating, demanding and exhausting. I crave a stability that the city and my career don’t often provide. Going to visit my mom and my animals at our farm has been a sacred spot in my life, and something I try to do as much as possible. It has been a blessing for both my Mom and me to have this place as a refuge from monotonous or strenuous daily life, and to be able to enjoy each other’s company for a few days, to re-energize before returning to the chaos.

A lot of young artists choose high concept/low labor mediums. It seems possible to succeed, by creating ephemeral pieces, in modern electronic mediums for quick consumption. You’ve chosen a more laborious medium, and make work for longevity. What are your thoughts on this?

For me I guess it was never a choice. I have the kind of brain that is only stimulated by activities that confound it. I find complexity really inspiring and exciting because it’s difficult to comprehend. So my work tends to revolve around the exploration of that. If it ever became low labor, I would probably move onto a different medium or subject matter.

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You are currently doing a series of paintings where the subjects are underwater. Can you tell me about that?

This is a practice that helps me understand that every visual subject is really just broken down into form elements. In order to understand a subject visually, I try to see it and break it down into shapes on the canvas before I can reassess how the parts are working collectively to create the person or object I see. It’s kind of a meditative Buddhist way of thinking. Water naturally abstracts form into its shapes and elements of color.  It’s just been a fun exploration into abstraction using a natural element that trains my brain to see things the way I want it to.

I’ve watched you look at an object, and I can see you reworking it in your mind. Deconstructing it, and reconstructing it. Almost like a scientist.  Is science something that you’re interested in?

I do look at my subjects scientifically. I studied biological science, and animal behavioral science in school before I switched to painting. So even though I am a painter now, in some ways I never stopped looking at the world as a scientist. Everything has an evolutionary reason for being the way it is, and this amazes me. Sometimes I am struck by the sight of something and want to understand it from an objective perspective, to break it down to its formal elements. This is how I’ve learned to paint – It’s just one method to see and make sense of the world in a visual way.

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Photography and interview by Roeg Cohen

Hannah Vandermolen Model // Painter

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