It’s been a rough week. When tragedy strikes, we look for solace where we can: small signs of sanity, beauty, and positivity that balance out the bad. Hannah Sherwood’s artwork is based on making physical signs in our landscape to buoy our spirits. Hannah’s fence projects, made of masking tape on chain link fencing, are part of her senior thesis project at Maine College of Art. She placed her last installation last week, on a cold April day that felt dishearteningly un-springlike. Where the blossoms had forgotten to bloom, Hannah’s art had popped up instead – bits of color in a still dreary landscape.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Doing what I love, definitely. I really like to have a positive feel to all of my work. This project is based on Portlanders as my client, even if they don’t know they are. So I wanted just I wanted these to serve as suspended thoughts to interrupt their daily routine. I just wanted to give them a boost of inspiration, just make people happy.
WHAT LESSON HAVE YOU LEARNED OR ARE LEARNING?
Always tell people that you love them. One of my really good friends died in December. And that really inspired this project. Stop worrying about the small things and just let it be.
WHAT DO YOU WANT IN YOUR LIFE?
I want to live creatively, work creatively, and travel.
WALK ME THROUGH THIS PROCESS.
The first step is finding a location. So, I look for potential chain-link fences where I think might reach a lot of Portlanders that are different than the ones I’ve reached before. Once I find the chain-link fence, I photograph it, and I take the photograph into Photoshop and do measurements. I determine the height and width of my letters. And, then I start creating the letters by filling in the grid with color. I print it out a couple times and hang it up and get the spacing right for the letters. Once I print it, I go to the fence and start counting with my first letter and follow the grid, like you would with the latch rug.
HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHAT WORDS YOU WILL USE?
Once I find the location, I think about the people that pass by. If it’s in an intersection, it might be commuters. So I picked for the Marginal Way location exit, so I thought about people who have a daily routine and do the same thing every day, so I chose “Let It Be” to sort of interrupt their day in a good way. And then, for the two installations on the paths, I thought about people and what they are doing when they are here. So, one of them was “Believe you can and you are halfway there.” So I was thinking about people who are exercising, or who might have other things in their life happening. This one is like my all-time favorite saying, “Shine On,” I just love that.
WHY IS THAT YOUR FAVORITE SAYING?
I just think it’s so positive and happy and I love to wear glitter. I love anything that sparkles. And I know that the sun is always so pretty here, so I thought about that, too. And I thought about people running by: Shine On.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE INSTALLATION SO FAR?
“Let It Be” on Marginal Way. And I’ve been tracking the social media response, too. So people have been hashtagging #letitbe, and probably about 50 people that I don’t know have uploaded pictures of it. So that’s been really cool to definitely see the actual spread of inspiration.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST NOTABLE RESPONSE?
I know exactly. I was up on the East End and this older woman came up to me and she stopped me – I was probably about halfway through the fence. And she asked me if I had done the “Let It Be” and she walked off and came back and said, “I want you to know that I was driving home after work one day, and I took a different route home that day, and I stopped at the light and I saw your message: “Let It Be”. And I was having one of the worst days in a long time, and I felt like it was fate that I had taken that way home to see it.” And that, right there, was enough for the entire project. And she just looked at me and put her hand on my shoulder and said “Thank you.”
IS THIS A PROJECT YOU’LL CONTINUE AFTER YOU GRADUATE?
Yeah, I think so. We’re doing a memorial 5k for my friend who passed way. And we are going to make a big sign for everyone at the finish line. And I think we’ll continue it – maybe a few messages this summer. I was really hoping it would be greener. I’ll do one more when it is sunny and green.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THESE INSTALLATIONS?
Some of them get taken down because of the weather. Some of them that people can’t get to, I’ll go and remove them. I knew going into it that I’d be using temporary materials. The Congress Street one is at a bus stop, and I knew going into it that people would pick it apart.
Did you see Hannah’s installations around town? Instagram your photos with the hashtag #i2i, so Hannah can see them.
See more of Hannah’s work here.