When Hanna Met Margaret

[Ink drawn puzzle purse accompanied with etching]

        I want to see how would you show connection? Evoke memory? I wanted to continue exploring if it could it be done through using historical art forms, using tropes, myth and allegory. You create a base of understanding, hey I recognise this art piece, I recognise this style and then use this as the cipher for the code/the language that you are trying to tell your story in. The hidden queerness.

       I found the poem When Hanna met Margaret by Caitlyn Siehl, and it was just so lovely. The line ‘the comet fell limp in an unnamed river’, the whole pome, really spoke to this idea of being known, even just by one other person.


They ask Hanna if she knew
Margaret in a biblical sense,
and, well, yes but no.
Yes, they fucked,
but no, not biblically.
Her hand on Margaret’s
body was not in the bible.
In fact, her hand on Margaret’s
body came before the bible.

Her hand was invented
before God was, before
anything existed, before
the burning bush, before
all the men and their quests, their

Just a single hand in the desert,
made specifically for Margaret’s
soft waist, soft cheeks, soft thighs.

She knew her prehistorically,
knew her anciently.

When their bodies met,
the earth got quiet again.

The continents held hands.

The comet fell limp in an unnamed river
and killed nothing,
smoke rising and disappearing
like a thing unremembered.

       I came across old valentines from the 17th and 18th centuries, these wonderful paper contraptions called puzzle purses that would give letters a new dimensionality. They also called to idea of layering, revealing and discovering whilst also being contained, hidden and secret.  They also posed an interesting challenge, figuring out how to make all the piece work together.

       Another piece of research I came across was the classical gesture of the chin chuck.

       Heather Rose Jones wrote “This is a conventionalized gesture in Western art beginning in Classical times that is always understood to have romantic or erotic implications. It involves one person holding the chin of the other person in one hand.”

       It was so clearly used to denote only one thing. I was interested in pulling this into my project as it calls to intimacy and an undercurrent of secrecy.

       Weaving all this visual research together, I began to plan my puzzle purse from the inside outwards. I illustrated my couple embracing in a double chin chuck, as well as positioning them in a way to form the silhouette of a heart. From there, I built a castle frame around them, a millefleur garden housing several animals couples. I wanted the piece to be symmetrical in several ways, the millefleur garden compositionally mirrored, and the sea and sky above and below the couple, depicting two comets colliding and then falling into the river, followed a mirrored motion of line. Connecting the different layers took some engineering, but in the end I created an entwined thorn bush, in the style of a celtic knot, the entrance you would have to push aside to find the garden. From there the vines spread out to encase the poem, and in turn twisted into roots. The reverse effect is following to growth of a bush, a hedge that obscures a hidden sanctuary.  

       Etching held the right amount of delicacy to create a very finely detailed piece. I love the process of etching, the care and attention it requires, feeling tired but content after crafting for so long. I did encounter the issue of resources and timing constraints, but not letting that slow me, I returned to ink, which also allowed me to really refine and line up the different layers to match.

       The final piece is something that I would like to share, make available. This course has revealed a theme of return for me, making something that can be given back, or given over to other queer people to use.