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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Verve: Work helps artist address beauty, chaos of life

Hannah Koeske has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Washington and is currently in nursing school. Her work is done in mixed media including oil paint, markers and pencil. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Hannah Koeske has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Washington and is currently in nursing school. Her work is done in mixed media including oil paint, markers and pencil. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Jennifer Larue jlarue99@hotmail.com

Artist Hannah Koeske is no stranger to chaos and darkness. Initially diagnosed with anxiety and ADHD, and then later, a type of bipolar disorder, she has found solace in visually capturing the chaos and the beauty of the world around her.

“I experience truths, experiential truths, while making art,” she said. “I have, in certain ways, led a hard life and gone down dark paths. But I am not on one now. I am not on one when I am doing art; it brings both grief and lightness and is transformative, and the process makes me better.”

Using Sharpies, pencils, watercolors, oil paint and pastels on cereal boxes, glass, wood, paper and canvas, Koeske creates works thick with layers, often combining drawing, painting and words.

“Sometimes I pare things down and use ‘nets’ of drawings to cover parts, as if I were fishing in a sea of meaning,” she said.

Koeske relays her internal journeys in soft and earthy colors in works that exude depth and beauty in what initially looks like chaos until a viewer looks closer, finding things they can relate to on an intuitive level.

Looking at Koeske’s work, one can imagine that intuition plays a large role in her creations. “Art brings me down to myself, and leaves me there for a little while so that I can fiddle around, but also brings me up, so that I can commune with spiritual essence, with something foundational, beneath as well as above, God or nature and wholeness in a new and mysterious way,” she said.

Koeske received encouragement in art as a child from a woman who taught her mostly traditional techniques from kindergarten through eighth grade. She graduated from Lewis and Clark High School and then attended Boston University to study philosophy and ethics. After about a year, she returned to Spokane where, after a fairly long rough patch, she chose art.

“I liked art, at first, just liked it, so I did it. And the reason I went on in my art education was because an instructor advised me to and I wanted to finish a four-year degree,” she said.

At Spokane Falls Community College, she focused on art, traveled to Paris for a seminar in surrealism, and then went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Washington. “Once I graduated from the UW, which was itself a test, of stamina, of creative consciousness in the face of institutional pressures, and of mental reserves, making art became essential to me.”

Medication, a good doctor, and art help soften the chaos that Koeske still experiences from time to time. She works through it, representing the yin and the yang, and the wholeness and fragmentation of life, in her work. Koeske is a member of Saranac Art Projects. She is moving toward becoming a nurse, a job that, she said will allow her to care for people, pursue her love of holistic medicine and concern for the body, mind and soul, and be able to be an artist without the dread of, or dependence on, commercial pressures.

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