My Salinity

My Salinity

Hannah Demma
Monday, January 9, 2023 to Friday, February 24, 2023

I’ve only seen the ocean a handful of times, and never truly had the chance to spend time with it. Only once was I immersed in the waters, and I had the barrier of a wetsuit to protect me from the Pacific chill. I’ve never felt warm ocean currents on my skin or had the chance to dive deep and behold the secrets of sea life. With my eyes closed, I can imagine the bright, glittering surface of the water blinding me. I ride waves as big as skyscrapers, and just as suddenly, I behold the darkness of the depths as I am swallowed whole. 

Having lived on prairie land my entire life, I love the vast views, open sky, and the sound of tallgrass swishing in the wind; freshwater lakes with massive veils of duckweed floating on the surface that divide at every sweep of my kayak paddle. I observe the yearly migration of the Sandhill Crane, now a vestige of their prehistoric bodies, flying through the cold March sky.

The prairie makes me think of new beginnings, and also lessons in hardship. Harsh wind; bitter cold; hot sun; the late summer drone of cicadas. I’ve heard the ocean air described as salty, but I can’t imagine air having that quality. Nebraska air tastes like nothing. Or maybe it tastes a little like dust.

In my studio I lead a rich fantasy life. I am excited and enchanted by the interplay of color, pattern, and texture in a variety of mediums — but always involving paper, most often, paper I’ve handmade. I look to the natural world for inspiration in my work. Approaching the work as a scientist or naturalist might, I observe, hypothesize, and run experiments. Then I interpret and process my findings. I consider creative play and intuitive investigation into materials hallmarks of my practice. 

When I watch documentaries about sea life, or read about the discoveries of marine scientists, I feel a stab of longing. I want to be there; I want to see and touch everything. To a doubly-landlocked person like myself, the ocean is a fantasy. The symbiotic nature of the world is a theme I return to in my work. A fantasy in which glowing, floating, magical beings exist. Where organisms (such as siphonophores) come together to form an entity that works as one to hunt, kill, and eat other fascinating creatures. The fantasticality of science in general is an endless well of possibility from which I draw inspiration.