Heidi Hahn’s Plaintive Portraits Reveal a Spectrum of Emotion

Through deft use of texture, the Brooklyn painter renders her own experiences—privacy, vulnerability, and liberation among them—in meditative portraits of women asserting bodily autonomy and existing on their own terms.

“Soft Joy #5” (2022) by Heidi Hahn. Image courtesy of Kohn Gallery

Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.

Bio: Heidi Hahn, 39, Brooklyn (@heidihahn123)

Title of work: Soft Joy #5 (2022).

Where to see it: Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles (1227 N Highland Ave) until April 9.

Three words to describe it: Contour, body, mood.

What was on your mind at the time: I wanted the body to stand in for a certain formalism. The work is about shape and color, and it also happens to talk about the feminine through that lens. I needed to pack in concerns about painting into the body. 

An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: The textures—each area has a different feel. Also, the color combinations are strange but once together harmonize. The color looks localized but there’s actually a lot of contrast in the details. 

How it reflects your practice as a whole: The work points to a future. The direction is becoming more abstracted and simplified. The early work was more narrative, but now the story is in the material.

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