Hannah Batsel, “Maneater”

Maneater is housed in a custom-printed clamshell box.

When opened, the box reveals the set of books on the right and the colophon in an envelope on the left.

The four books of the Maneater nestle inside one another like Russian nesting dolls. Held in place by magnets embedded in their spines, the books are best read as one volume but can be separated and read individually.

The four volumes of Maneater decrease in size and page count– but become more fantastical and colorful – as the story goes backward in time. The first time each new character’s name is spoken, a new volume begins to tell their story.

All together, Maneater consists of thirty hand-screen-printed pages, plus five covers and a colophon.

Hannah Batsel
Chicago, Illinois
Screen print
50 screen printed copies, 1 hand-painted original
30 pages
10 x 15.5 x 2″
10 x 7 x 2″

Artist Statement

My work’s most consistent and driving theme is the human compulsion to collect, categorize, list, and document both the natural world and, as an extension, the worlds of other peoples and cultures. Because storytelling is so intrinsic to how people contextualize, experience, and even lay claim to the world, my work takes the form of fundamentally narrative structures such as the artist book and the interactive installation. I draw from turn-of-the-19th-century texts, illustrations, and scientific thought as aesthetically enrapturing but blatantly problematic records of this colonial impulse. By appropriating the era’s gaudy and crowded illustrative style, my work connects the naïve fairytale depiction of colonial adventures in far-off lands with more modern narratives and social systems. Through meticulous craftsmanship in the depiction of lush environments, fantastic animals, and compelling photos and artifacts, these works seduce the viewer into enjoying and appreciating imagined worlds imbued with real ugliness. My role, in the end, is to entice and engage, but also to investigate real-world power dynamics through a more inviting, fictional lens.

Maneater is a set of four artist books, produced in a limited edition of 50 hand-print and hand-bound copies. The set consists of four stories whose physical and narrative structure nest within one another like Russian nesting dolls. The books can be read separately, but when taken together, reveal a legacy of greed and colonialism across generations.

Every time a new character’s name is spoken, a new book begins that follows that character’s life story. The first book’s protagonist is a wealthy shut-in who becomes obsessed with an exotic deity; the three enclosed books reveal this retired businessman’s colonialist past and the history of the deity’s native land. With every book, the narrative as a whole moves backwards chronologically in time. The visual style echoes that of 19th century children’s mass-market hardcover adventure books, whose bright and captivating illustrations belied the troubling imperialist messages conveyed within. Magnets embedded in the spine of each book hold them in place for display or easy reading as a set.