PHOTOGRAPHY: By Alison Shermeta Photography
Artfolios held its grand opening this past fall in a chic downtown Winston-Salem space. At the end of the evening, I left as the proud owner of a large Frida Kahlo painting by Latina artist Hannah Gaskins Pabon. Once hung, the fiercely majestic and unapologetic Frida compelled me to reach out to Hannah to learn more about her and her soul-stirring work.
Tell me a little about your background…
I come from a family that appreciates the arts. My grandpa was a musician in a band in the Bronx and I was a theatre kid who loved getting on stage and telling a story – as I do now, through my art. I attended UNC Wilmington with the goal of being a child therapist because I wanted to help others find their voice. On the side, I took art classes and soon found myself switching to Studio Art as my major.
I am curious about how your background informs your art…
My family is Puerto Rican and I come from the Latinx culture. My mom and I have a very strong bond and female empowerment and diversity are themes that matter to me and that I like working with.
On that note, how are you evolving as an artist?
You know, in college, I had to create a series based on a singular theme and I had a teacher who pushed me to reach outside of my comfort zone. At the time, I was working in a sexual assault awareness office and I created a series based on that experience while reflecting on my own personal experiences. Ever since, I have worked to keep pushing the box open.
It sounds like you find inspiration in the human experience…
Yes, I find it in what I see around me – the people, the environment, all of it. My goal is to give voice to a subject and to inspire conversation around it. When someone says “It makes me feel something,” then I know that I have done my job.
Tell me more about that “voice”…
Well, the voice is in the beholder of the work. Each individual’s interpretation gives a piece a voice. As an artist, I never know how far that story will go, and that’s a beautiful thing.
I love that. We’re back to the story telling…
Exactly. Right now I am teaching pre-school. It is very therapeutic for me because children notice the smallest details. They look at the world through eyes that are longing for more. I slow down when I am with them and I notice how there are no limits in terms of how they create. I am also teaching a middle school class. At that age, children begin to develop the fear of sharing who they really are and I want to help build their confidence.
How do you define success as an artist?
Honestly, I don’t know what “success” means. What I do know is that it is hard putting my art out there because I create pieces from an emotional place in myself. If my art can create a safe place where emotions can be explored and expressed, a place for looking back and healing, then that will be my success.
That’s extremely powerful. And as you look ahead…what do you see?
Right now I feel very blessed that opportunities have come my way and that the community has been so supportive. I keep pushing forward, opening up that box further and the doors seem to open. Unless those doors shut, I will keep going.