Shawn Hall is an abstract painter who has developed an expanded practice that includes traditional and time-based media, installation and environmental research and outreach. Originally born in Ann Arbor, MI, she’s lived in New Orleans since 1997. She is a frequent collaborator and experimenter. Her development as an artist has led to a delicate, intuitive approach to painting and subject matter, which extends into all her other work as well. The natural environment, biology and the fact of our interconnectedness to a world that we don’t fully understand are at the core of Shawn’s current work. Shawn got her MFA at the Mount Royal School of the Maryland Institute College of Art where she was a Patricia Harris Fellow. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an AS in Science from Delta College in MI. She has been an artist-in-residence at School 33 in Baltimore, the LMCC in NYC, 18th Street Art Center in Santa Monica, CA, the Santa Fe Art Institute, and Isadore Newman High School in New Orleans. She was in residence and toured with her collaborators, PearlDamour, and their collective installation/performance HOW TO BUILD A FOREST, which premiered at the Kitchen in NYC in 2011 and went on to Universities and art spaces around the Eastern and Southern USA with it’s last showing at the CAC in New Orleans in 2015. Shawn’s work has been featured at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and CAC in New Orleans, The Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, FL, the Alexandria Museum in Alexandria, LA, along with galleries in New York, Dallas, Miami and Nashville. Her work has been reviewed nationally in Art Papers, New Art Examiner, Hyperallergic, dialogue and Pelican Bomb and is in the permanent collection of the Ogden Museum and Linklaters Corporate collection in NYC, as well as numerous private collections in the USA and Europe.
As the late ecologist Barry Commoner put it ‘everything is connected to everything else’. I view my practice as an act of participation in the biological world through intuition and action, and work from the premise that everything is an event in nature. As a visual artist whose paintings imagine the natural world in its various facets, often from an up-close and even microscopic point of view, my work reflects my deep engagement with the natural world. What is within and without us is teaming with biological drama and phenomena that we are just a part of. To a large extent my work is a kind of homage to this fact.
I loved my time at SFAI. I split my days between exploring the mountains, exploring the SFAI courtyard and exploring my practice. I enjoyed time with the other artist residents, many with whom I keep in touch. While at SFAI I really clarified what was going on in my work, which had begun to change several years earlier but I had not figured out how to talk about it. I coined the term Manifest Botany as a counter to the ruinous concept Manifest Destiny and realized that my practice was based on not only my relationship to nature but also my participation in it. I made a series of 54+ small 12×12” paintings, most of which became a large grid titled STAIN, which helped me to understand the participatory nature of my practice. They were also on a new kind of clay support for me, a random choice in a Santa Fe art supply store, which I have continued working on since. The time I spent with the trees and leaves in the courtyard turned into a temporal installation called LEAF made from collected leaves with specific features and launched me back into performance and also into installation. Video taken in the courtyard formed the basis for an installation I developed a few years later called PASTORAL UNIVERSE. I took full advantage of the residency and would love to do so again in the future. Here is a description of LEAF (sculptural installation): The piece has a center that begins with smaller, more delicate paired leaves, and extends outward with larger leaves. Leaves collected for their particular 2 and 3 lobe patterns are attached to a wall. Every leaf had fallen on it’s own, and was collected over 2 months from 4 trees in an enclosed courtyard at the Santa Fe Art Institute where this piece was manifest. It was largely about observation and the act of collecting, and then the impulse of making form.