Hannah Brancato is currently working on a series of swiftly made cyanotype prints layered with strands of meticulously embroidered hair, grown over a period of 6 years. Each print is embroidered with an excerpt from her dreams.
The project is an examination and excavation of her unconscious. It is a record of the time it took for this hair to grow and these dreams to take root. The timing is significant, since this is the summer following the culmination of the Monument Quilt project, a collective endeavor to create public and healing space for survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, which absorbed by spiritual, emotional, intellectual and creative energy since it began in 2013. These new, intimate embroideries create a practice through which she is coming back to herself absent of the lens of collective work, which has, until now, defined her identity as an artist.
This work is part of a larger auto-ethnographic project, in which she is observing and recovering from the effects of burnout, and reflecting on her fraught role as a white person within social justice work. In this body of work overall, she is working to uncover repressed and internalized ideas about whiteness, sexuality, grief, trauma and the connection between the self and the collective.
Hannah Brancato (she/her) is an artist and educator based in Baltimore. She is co-founder of FORCE. Hannah was a 2015 OSI-Baltimore Community Fellow to launch FORCE's Baltimore based survivor collective, Gather Together. She began working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence in 2008, when she established Advocate Through Art at the House Of Ruth Maryland, an awareness campaign by and for domestic violence survivors.
Brancato is currently faculty at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). She is dedicated to mobilizing visual culture uproot and resist white supremacy, structural racism and rape culture. In all of her work, she challenges viewers and participants to make connections between personal experience and social injustices and realities. Hannah earned her MFA in Community Art from MICA in 2011.
Imagine a quilting circle: an intergenerational group of people, sitting around a table, sewing together on one blanket. You can hear conversations ebbing and flowing; you can see people connected through the embodied act of making. This picture gets to the core of who I am as an artist. I work collectively, value process as much as the end product, and understand myself as a part of something much greater than any individual person. I am an artist who needs to use her hands, learning how a material works by letting it guide me. With a background in fiber arts and community art, I am drawn to environments like those created by quilting circles, that open space for storytelling, and tether participants to histories of people sitting together and making.
The quilting circle illustrates how sites of healing and support are also sites for resistance, and how activism is a path for healing for many, including me. The fact that activism is healing is a core value of the collective I co-founded in 2010, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. FORCE was formed in response to the silence around rape and abuse, to generate public conversations where they did not exist, by and for survivors like myself. Our most well known project is the Monument Quilt, a collection of 3,000 stories from survivors of rape and abuse, written, painted and stitched onto red Quilt squares. A collective ritual for grief, the Monument Quilt literally blankets public spaces, our stories assembled together to spell “Not Alone.”