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Hanna Newman is an installation artist from Minnesota and currently based in Atlanta, GA. Recent exhibitions include solo “Dawn” at the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design Gallery (Atlanta, GA), group show “More Upstairs” at the Temporary Art Center (Atlanta, GA), two-person exhibition “Body Double,” at The Bakery (Atlanta, GA), and invitational group exhibition “Ongoing Conversation,” in Kyoto, Japan. Hanna Newman achieved her M.F.A. from Georgia State University in 2021 where she currently teaches as Visiting Lecturer of Ceramics.  

instagram: @hanna.sculpture

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My sister Kayla and I shared a room in the house where I spent most of my upbringing. One night, I woke up with my eyes closed and a weight on my chest. I was terrified, paralyzed in my bed, struggling to expand my chest with the shouts of panic I felt within myself but could not release. From under my closed eyelids, I could see the bedroom in its haziness. Kayla was asleep in her bed on the other side of the room next to the window that faced the street. The streetlights travelled through the cheap vinyl window blinds and cast stripes that masked her blanketed form along with the walls that surrounded her. I screamed calls to her that never left my still, closed lips. My attention shifted to the open door adjacent to my bed. A shadowy, unrecognizable figure took a single step into the room, looked around, and then stepped out and continued down the hallway. I woke up a minute later. I grew accustom, but never comfortable, to these episodes over the years, not knowing until my late teens that what I had been experiencing was sleep paralysis.  

My experiences with sleep paralysis continued throughout childhood and into my adult life. The liminal space that I revisit in this state leaves me feeling separate from my body, trapped within a dwelling of which I can’t control for several minutes, hallucinating the room around me. In these moments I feel as if my body is not me, but detached and other, and I am in a struggle for reattachment. While my mind is consciously aware of my environment, my body is still stuck in a dream state within the REM cycle, inducing a hallucinated perception of reality. It is difficult to articulate the sounds that pulsate in my head, the movement that occurs within the patterns and shadows that animate an otherwise stationary room, the anxiety I feel in the fight to force out the sounds of my voice through lips that are no longer receiving the information. As a result of this, I grew up doubting my grasp of reality at times and have questioned the fragility of my mentality as I have further examined my sleep disorders.  

Sleep paralysis, insomnia, sleepwalking, sleep talking, nightmares and night terrors, repeatedly waking up naked on the couch or in my roommate’s vacant bed, finding the shower dial turned on full heat but the water running cold in the morning, seeing (or not seeing?) shadows morph into forms that linger on the walls and the trees mocking me as they shapeshift through the blinds; all of these experiences have led me to question if what I am experiencing is “real,” or if it is fiction bred from a dream or sleeplessness. This state of altered reality, this liminal space, is a place in which I situate my figurative sculptures. They exist as I do, in an in-between state as beings that are not fully present yet not fully absent. 

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