Mercer Hanau

October 5 - November 12, 2022

Mercer Hanau is a Seattle-based artist and designer specializing in printmaking, video, and cyanotype. She grew up in Portland, OR and graduated from Whitman College in 2018. Her work has exhibited at shows and live performances in Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Hanau first learned about cyanotype (AKA "sun prints") in a college printmaking class and continued experimenting with the 19th-century cameraless photography technique during her 2020 "Garden Ghosts" artist residency at the Shoreline Art Cottage. Since then, Hanau has continued to create cyanotypes using a variety of materials. During the pandemic, she has also taught an online zine workshop through ShoreLake Arts and made relief prints at her home studio (i.e. messy desk).

Mercer Hanau's artwork explores intersections of science and culture, often featuring animals and plants with a sense of reverence and surreality. For Hanau, research and art-making are ways to connect with the world intellectually and spiritually.

Cyanotype—also known as "sun printing"—is a 19th-century, cameraless photographic method that uses UV light to record shadows that objects cast during exposure. In Summer 2020, Mercer Hanau spent two months making cyanotypes during a residency at the Shoreline Art Cottage at Richmond Beach Saltwater Park, and she has since continued using the Pacific Northwest's rare sunny days to create images. Much of her work explores the relationship between pollinator loss and agriculture. She uses dead honeybees (collected ethically), plants, and some human-made objects to create ghostly silhouettes. The resulting images are simultaneously celebrations of the intricacy of nature and reminders of what we stand to lose from our everyday lives with decreasing biodiversity.

Mercer Hanau's use of cyanotype with this subject matter is inspired by the interdisciplinary work of Anna Atkins, an English botanist and artist who is often credited as the first female photographer and the creator of the first book to include photographic illustrations—cyanotypes of seaweed—in 1843. The process is steeped in a long history of combining science and art, and the technique itself involves experimenting with numerous variables: length of exposure, time of day (UV level and shadow angles), weather conditions, paper or fabric type, light-sensitive chemical application, object transparency, double exposure effects, and more.