Hannah Antalek, “Inside Joke”


Hannah Antalek
Brooklyn, New York

Inside Joke
acrylic, collage, colored pencil, graphite, ink, marker and oil pastel on composition notebook
10 x 7.5 x .5″

Artist Statement

“Inside Joke” is an artist book conceived as an extension of my painting practice. My paintings and drawings begin by sifting through my large archive of family photo albums, childhood sketchbooks, cartoon stills, and “90’s nostalgia” Pinterest boards. I am interested in the fallibility of memory as I grapple with these images as evidence of events, actions, entertainment, and consumer products that defined a specific time of my childhood. Revisiting this era in my early development has served as a biographical and cultural lens to analyze my current inclinations towards art- making. This process also offers respite to simpler times by quelling the anxieties of the present brought on by current-day political, social and economic stresses.

In Marcel Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time, the narrator, (an autofictional version of the author) famously eats a madeleine cookie and is transported through sensory experience back to a vivid remembering of his childhood. Unlike Proust, my source material has lead me further from the reality of time passed. Conjuring completely unrelated or adjacent memories, I collage disparate images together, both narratively and physically, within the drawings. “Inside Joke” is a catalog of personal imagery (a birthday cake, my bedside table, a love note or my dinner) and the personally symbolic (Halloween, insects, animals, smiley faces). The manner of making the drawings is honest and straightforward yet the subject matter oscillates between secretive and sentimental. On one page a benign hot dog swaddled in a checkered picnic blanket upends the seriousness of another drawing depicting a gravestone underneath a rainbow, while on another page ants devour a rose encircled by a studded collar; an illegible surrealist symbol. Humor, anxiety, importance, meaninglessness and tragedy are aspects that overlap through the stream of conscious nature through which the drawings are made. By combining fragments of divergent memories, both personal and cultural, my work belies the notion that memory is something pure, intact and unchanging – something that can be neatly summoned at will.

“Inside Joke” is a book about nostalgia, however not in the standard definition as having a sentimentality for the past, but rather to have a sentimentality towards a utopian memory that never existed. The work tells a diaristic fiction based on true, deeply personal events while still inviting the viewer in with the universality of everyday events and objects reflective of a middle class American upbringing at the end of the 20th century.