Back to Arts

Carol Hannum: Worlds Apart

A retrospective exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College

“The Reluctant Bride” oil painting by Carol Hannum. Photo courtesy of South Puget Sound Community College

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

Carol Hannum is an underappreciated local treasure. Her art has been shown in museums and galleries and is in private and public collections worldwide, including many in Lacey and Olympia, and she has taught at South Puget Sound Community College. And yet, a glance at her resumé indicates she has not shown locally, other than a few pieces in the postcard shows at SPSCC, since 2004.

I was thrilled to see her retrospective show of drawings, paintings, handmade journals and steel sculptures at the gallery at SPSCC.

The sculptures came as a total surprise. I didn't know she did them. There are six of them in this show, which Gallery Director Sean Barnes said were literally dug up from Hannum's yard where the bases were three to four inches underground. These rusted steel sculptures are icon- or totem-like abstract figures that stand majestically like warriors guarding the women and children depicted in watercolor and other media around the gallery walls. They are in a style reminiscent of the innovative mid-20th century sculptures of David Smith. Most stand approximately six to eight feet tall.

On the right-hand wall as you enter the gallery are five watercolor portraits of family members. On the surface, they are as sweet and delicate as calendar art or illustrations in children's books. But that surface appearance is deceiving. Upon more careful study, one sees there is an underlying surrealistic bent to some of these portraits, and a bit of twisted humor -- a hint at what is to come as one walks around the gallery and sees increasingly surrealistic and quirky stuff hidden below the sweet surface appearance. My favorite among this first group of portraits is "Remembering Edgar Allen Poe," a portrait of a woman identified in the signature line as "Baltimore Belle" with ravens collaged all over her. She holds a rolled-up document tied with a ribbon. The juxtaposition of sweetness and light with the mildly menacing ravens is shocking -- a precursor to what's to come in other works.

Along the back wall are even more surrealistic images of life-sized standing figures. Some are couples, and one of the pairings is a wedding picture. They are done with mixed-media with lithographs and collaged images and assemblages and are filled with unexpected imagery.   

There is a group of small oil portraits including one depicting two faces behind stage curtains. There is a startlingly strange illusion of depth because it is unclear how near the people are, and there is a disparity between the size of the faces and the curtains. Looking at it is like being drawn into something otherworldly behind the curtain at which the faces give only a hint.

Finally, there are 25 hand-bound travel journals on a table with ink drawings and personal notes from trips all over the world (including some from area attractions right here in the South Sound) with chairs and an invitation to sit down and thumb through. Like much of the work in the show, these combine the familiar and comfortable with the unexpected.

On a personal note, I have known Hannum for almost 30 years, and I was astounded to discover aspects of her work I had never seen before. By all means, see this show.

CAROL HANNUM: WORLD'S APART, through Oct. 19, reception 6-8 p.m., Sept. 21, South Puget Sound Community College, Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia,

The Tacoma Arts Commission announced this year's AMOCAT Arts Award winners honoring people and organizations that positively impact the community with their passion, innovation and commitment to the arts. Congratulations to all: MultiCare Health System (Arts Patron), Tacoma Little Theatre (Community Outreach by an Organization), and Jackie Casella (Community Outreach by an Individual).

Read next close

South Sound Cinema

Tacoma Film Festival needs your help

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search