12 Questions with 2019 MFA Graduate Hannah McBroom


1. Can you tell me a little bit about you?

I grew up in Mississippi and went to MSU as an undergrad. I decided to go to the University of Arkansas after taking a year off. I recently moved to Overland Park and have all my plants spread out in the house. I love Thai food and going camping in the spring and fall. I have a fear of motorized machines and get a migraine if there is a scented candle lit in the room. 

2. What first inspired you to begin making art?

Peer pressure. My friends in high school were making art pieces in Mrs. Pigg’s classroom during 5th period and I wanted a way to skip athletics. I feel in love with using the supplies in her classroom and dreamt of being an artist one day. 

3. What is your studio like?

At the moment my studio is floating somewhere between my desk in my bedroom where I work on sketches to downstairs in the actual studio where the painting happens. I’ve been enjoying the bedroom more because there’s a window overlooking the neighborhood and I can see people walking by with their dogs. The downstairs studio is next to the water heater and ac unit which is completely surrounded by concrete, wooden beams, and duct work. A month ago I invested in some noise cancellation head phones so I could focus on what I’m doing without the hum of the units distracting me. 

4. Do you listen to music when you’re painting? What are some artists you’re currently listening to?

Usually I’m listening to Morten Lauridsen. A lot of time it’s The National or Lake Street Dive. I switch between mildly depressing and melodic to upbeat music. The upbeat music is generally to keep me awake in the afternoons. Recently I haven’t been listening to anything. My roommate’s cat has made his primary place to lounge during the day on my bed behind me. I’ve been enjoying the purrs while I’m fussing over a sketch with a cup of tea brewing slowly next to me.

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5. Can you talk a little about your process?

I gather a lot of material in my head, like watching a butcher pick out fish from the ice or the look a roommate gives you in the hallway last Tuesday at 9:30 pm. Out of all those moments I channel them into two different concepts I’ve been working with the last few months: how do I show vulnerability without censorship and how has my body been shaped by outside forces. I make a lot of sketches around certain ideas I have about these ideas and make studies of how they would look and feel in a certain space. I’m imagining these smaller oil paintings blown up to 6’ in scale and in a room where people are milling in and out. Would they notice the veiny arms of this woman standing in the kitchen or the mark making that’s providing the structure of her knees? So I experiment in the early stages and see what could possibly work. If the painting feels dead then it’s time to change it up. If I’m bored with a painting it’s just not going to work. 

6. What ideas are you exploring in your work?

I worked with coordinators for shows on what works could be shown this year. I ran into a lot of restraints when it came to showing pieces that contained nudity or results of violence. Some coordinators were all for it but couldn’t show the pieces because of viewers who might disagree with those images. I want to show paintings that can vulnerable moments or things that might be uncomfortable for some viewers. How can I make an image that isn’t so easily flagged as immodest? Can I make a painting that has a penis in it and make it “modest?” I want to play with that border between modesty and depravity a bit. Not to make someone uncomfortable but to show the similarities between the two. Can a painting have a penis in it without being sexual? How can a viewer who’s not familiar with trans bodies become engrossed with the image/painting despite their discomfort with a penis or something sexual in nature? I want to make that moment more for myself because there’s things I still need to feel from my own paintings.    

Another way in looking at this is studying how my body or idea of a body has been shaped by others. I’m living in a suburban neighborhood for the first time ever. There’s strip malls and upper middle class people running around everywhere. My last home had queers and struggling families trying to get by. I never had to think about my appearance or what I wear to throw out trash at 7 am on a Wednesday. So my identity as an artist and person is shifting. With that shifting I’m going back and trying to articulate these smaller moments of how my identity as a trans woman has shifted the last several years. What does it mean to have an authentic self? Can you create an identity without outside influence? How much of my identity has been shaped by sex, academia, and my personal life? So part of my paintings now are about finding an identity while situating outside a traditional binary. Some of the paintings I’m working on now is my body or a friends that’s uncomfortable with being in a situation like the bedroom or grocery store. 

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7. Who/What are influences for your work?

A lot of female painters like Lisa Yuskavage and Cecily Brown. Women who worked against how women were expected to paint at the time and instead focused on what they needed their paintings to do. There’s several art museums and galleries in KC so I’ll go there and get a massive art high and run home and knock out an area on a painting I was struggling with that week. There’s so many good drawings and paintings there. 

8. How do you overcome ‘failure’?

Failure was always a bad word even when I was in grad school. I resisted failing so much i failed at the thing I was trying to do the first two years. I recently started making watercolors because there’s a level of failure built into the process of controlling pigmented fluids. For me I’ve been leaning into failure more as a way to create new marks or to find out things about what my process could be. For me the only way to overcome failure is try new things and stop sitting on the same habits. The studio is about messing up and I enjoy the process of shifting through every possibility for a solution. 

9. How do you seek out opportunities?

I go to events, talk to people, check online, catch up with old friends/contacts. A lot of the opportunities this year came from putting myself out into the world and trusting that it would give back. I’ve been very fortunate that the relationships I built while in grad school have given me opportunities to show and collaborate. My favorite thing to do now is go to show openings and mingle with people several times a month. Generally after a few times people tend to remember my face and we have conversations about the art world. 

10.  If you could go back in time and give yourself advice as an incoming 1st year grad, what advice would you give?

“Don’t let your pride get in the way of doing something really dumb. You will fail so lighten up a bit. Actually, if you could just be even dumber and just do that thing your professor kept suggesting you do, do that but on a whole other level.”


11.  What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?

Too many! I’ve had so many opportunities this year to showcase and sell work, meet new people, go to new places. What I’m really proud of is starting a studio practice in a new city without stressing over finding a day job. I’ve had time to experiment and research new avenues while making work in the studio. 

12.  What are you working on now?

I’m working on a series of works about how trans bodies are formed under different moments. A lot of the images I’ve been developing are from personal experience but are influenced by friends stories of struggles and triumphs. Everything’s in oil but I’m started everything out with a smaller sketch/oil study. I wanted a way to screw up on a smaller scale so I could find out where all the good parts were for the larger pieces. I’m also researching material for a book I’m writing with a friend on how the porn industry has affected the representation of transwomen outside that industry. It’s most likely going to take several years to research and produce.