The studio practice of Kirsten Hassenfeld is a throwback to the vernacular handicrafts of the original American settlers. Hassenfeld’s evolution from primarily paper works to recycled every day materials reflects her concern about waste and conservation in today’s society. She carefully saves odds and ends from her daily life, such as bottle caps, thread spools, envelopes and wrapping paper and incorporates them into complex abstract and pictoral works of art. With reference to traditional household chores that kept generations of poor Americans solvent, she quilts, sews, weaves, canes and patches these cast-off materials into spectacular assemblages.
Cabin Fever is equally representative of the pace of her work and the isolation of her studio practice. Normally associated with a person’s claustrophobic reaction to a small space with nothing to do, Hassenfeld’s cabin fever equates more to having too much to do. Her meticulous work style and attention to detail demands a vast amount of studio time in preparation for an exhibition. Her lair is filled with discarded materials, deemed unnecessary to others, that slowly get fit together to form a complex convergence of texture and color. These unique constructions serve as a reminder of the past, when creativity was directly linked to our readily available resources.
Kirsten Hassenfeld was an explorer as a child, spending many a day wandering around the fields behind her suburban home in Albany, New York. She found interest in things that pointed to our past, like a broken down pen in the woods that was reminiscent of something more historical than a development playground. This interest in something more chronicled and real plays a role in her work today. Cabin Fever is a commentary on where we have been, but it is also a glimpse into where we are going.
Hassenfeld’s work defies distinct classification as an art form. It lies somewhere between collage and assemblage depending on what path she takes with an individual work. Based on many traditional, craft-based techniques she modernizes the composition by uniting her process with modern, yet recycled materials. The final product is an invitation to the viewer to investigate the form, substance and structure of her work. The more time spent viewing the work of Kirsten Hassenfeld, the more there is to find.
Hassenfeld received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA from the University of Arizona. She has been awarded individual artist grants from New York Foundation for the Arts and The Pollock-Krasner Foundation and has had solo exhibitions at Bellwether Gallery in New York and Peter Mendenhall Gallery in Los Angeles, among many others. She lives and works in Brooklyn.