A sponsor display for the Stoughton Opera House.

Podcast: Hannah O’Hare Bennett’s feral materials

The mixed-media artist discusses her May and June residency at the Madison Public Library’s Bubbler space.


This sculpture by Hannah O'Hare Bennett is made of paper pulp, taking the material out of its familiar context.

This sculpture by Hannah O’Hare Bennett is made of paper pulp, taking the material out of its familiar context.

Artist Hannah O’Hare Bennett takes familiar objects and materials and makes them feel wild. She creates pincushions with unruly tufts of fur, books that turn into messy spirals, and embroidery that looks rough and brittle. The work draws a lot of inspiration from the materials  that people source from the natural environment.

In a way, Bennett’s approach is a reversal of narratives in which wild creatures become domesticated.

“I’m really interested intellectually in the history of how these particularly plants and animals that we’re so familiar with evolved from nature, with our input,” Bennett says. “I’m interested in these very tactile things as well as this concept, and sometimes I try to very consciously combine those two things but a lot of times it’s more intuitive than that.”

Bennett’s interest in materials—natural, domestic, and in-between—stems in part from her upbringing on a small organic farm in Kansas. She’s explored paper pulp and sawdust, and carries a pair of clippers around to take samples of things she runs across, like grapevine tendrils and milkweed. “That natural familiarity with materials and not being afraid to get your hands dirty and touch things and feel things, I think that has followed me through my whole life, and it’s partly why I like making art,” she says.

Bennett completed her master of fine arts degree at UW-Madison last year, and this month she’ll be starting up a residency in the Bubbler space at the downtown Madison Public Library, kicking off during the citywide Spring Gallery Night on Friday, May 4. That will include inviting visitors to share in her exploration of different materials and how to use them in surprising ways. Some of her work is also currently on display at the library’s first floor gallery.

Bennett spoke recently with Tone Madison contributor Phoebe Schlough about her work and her plans for her Bubbler residency, which she plans to treat as a “fiber studio.”

Give the conversation a listen here, or subscribe to the Tone Madison podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and consider supporting us financially with a one-time or recurring donation.

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