Pen, Ink & Circus – Hanna Mandelbaum

Brooklyn-based visual artist, arial performer and entrepreneur Hanna Mandelbaum sees a similarity between circus training and ink drawing- “Even what appear to be simple circus tricks can take years to master and require the coordinated engagement of every muscle. When drawing my subjects, I build them up slowly one small line at a time, much like one develops any difficult skill.”

small cropped hanna

Hailing from Kingston, NY, Hanna studied at the University of Chicago, and stayed in Chicago afterwards to paint while she worked as a bike messenger. After moving to New York, she took up trapeze. “I’ve been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember, but circus entered my life seven years ago. I have a pair of angora rabbits to thank for my love affair with trapeze. What started as barter – bunny sitting for lessons –  grew over time to be as much of a practice for me as visual arts.”

Hanna’s lines evoke the feel of lithography, and like circus itself, these images seem to hail from a time before photography. Hanna is primarily known for her paintings, which bring to mind everything from Franz Marc to Gustav Klimt. These ink drawings are a brand new body of work, created during a brief hiatus from training due to a shoulder injury (Circus people get hurt. A lot.) Hanna turned to her sketchbook – “I realized that even if I was temporarily grounded, I could still engage with circus through art.”

Hanna and her partner Noah Price (executive director of NY’s Gowanus Circus) have been heavily involved in the creation of New York’s newest circus haven, The Muse, an incredible circus school and multi-use space in a colossal warehouse near Harry Houdini’s grave. Hanna is also co-owner of Evermore Petfood, a small company that makes dogfood of a higher quality than most human food.

Join us for an opening reception set to coincide with Flatiron First Friday on June 5th, from 6 to 10pm.

We’ll be hosting an informal artist talk June 18th at 8pm, and the show will remain open during the entirety of the incredible, sprawling second annual Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival.  We’re just one stop North on the Blue Line from the Chopin Theatre.  -PI&S