Meet The Artist Who Blends Two Forms Of Expression To Create One-Of-A-Kind Art

And is finding beauty in imperfection.

For some artists, the line between dance and visual art is quite blurry. Such is the case for Heather Hansen, who is making some incredible creations utilizing just her body, gessoed canvas (occasionally Korean paper), charcoal, and — sometimes — an audience.

The New Orleans-based artist executes fluid-like movements across the blank canvas while holding charcoal in her hand, which creates a series of shapes and patterns before she smears the lines. For the final step, Hansen picks herself up, stands back, and admires the one-of-a-kind work.



Courtesy of Justin Sullivan
Courtesy of Justin Sullivan

"It's like a photograph in that way because it's a literal recording of that moment," Hansen told A Plus. "So it's scary as hell, but I think that's what keeps it interesting for me."

A lot of effort goes into each piece, with the actual creation of them ranging from being measured in minutes to hours. But, as Hansen explained, that is just one part of the process. Hansen accounts for the time in preparing the canvas before the dancing and preserving, varnishing, and stretching the canvas afterward. On top of all that, there are decades worth of study and exploration in both dance and the visual arts behind each individual finished product.

Courtesy of Bryan Tarnowski
Courtesy of Bryan Tarnowski

Hansen studied Butoh dance in Japan for much of the '90s, where she first started percolating on the idea of live painting, though she ended up keeping those two sides of herself separate.

"A few years ago I was playing around and dancing on the beach with my son and noticed the lines left in the sand by my turns," Hansen said about her aha moment. "It reignited my interest in embodied art and I started to explore these ideas in the studio."

Courtesy of Justin Sullivan
Courtesy of Justin Sullivan

What resulted from that moment is the style Hansen has come to be known for — especially because often times it is done in front of an audience and without musical accompaniment.

Hansen said the fact that there's an audience present makes the experience feel like a "high-stakes game of solitaire" and, in lieu of music, she said, "it's really nice to draw in silence because everything is motivated by breath … and the sounds of the charcoal." What comes out of that is a "more intimate experience" for both Hansen and those watching.

Courtesy of Nichole Ripka
Courtesy of Nichole Ripka

As for the art itself, it looks deep — thanks to the smearing of the charcoal — and relatively symmetrical. That being said, Hansen said there are imperfections that keep it from being perfectly proportional and that, perhaps, is its greatest facet.

"I am drawn to symmetry, efficiency, and minimalism in form," the Hansen said. "But my body is not symmetrical. I have scoliosis, my pelvis [is] tilted, and one leg is a bit shorter than the other. I'm dominantly right handed and I love that these things show in my drawings."



Courtesy of Justin Sullivan
Courtesy of Justin Sullivan

"The flaws make them distinctly human which is far more interesting to me than perfection," Hansen continued. "When I was young my ballet teacher told me I would never be a professional dancer because of these physical limitations. I didn't let that stop me. Working with my limitations instead of fighting them has opened up possibilities that I might not have found otherwise."

Check out Hansen's website here, and on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Vimeo.

See Hansen in action in the video below:

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