Back to Article
Back to Article






Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Senior artist Hannah Shaw utilizes her experiences within her family of differing class circumstances in her series, The Evolution of Aspirations offering a unique and insightful look into the arise of different levels of success in society. Shaw captures the struggles – or lack thereof – within her subject’s lives with near tangible pathos, creating dramatic contrasts with black backgrounds and bright colors, pronounced facial expressions, and blurred lines. 

-Caitlin Tran 

So let’s begin by talking about the series you painted for the art show.

The first one showed four people, two of them were successful in the eyes of society, and two weren’t. Two were homeless, but you couldn’t really determine how each of them got to where they were, and the next seven pieces showed where they got to where they are. The man who was successful was famous and got what he wanted through inheritance and didn’t have to work for anything really, which is why his hand is more lively and brightly colored and the hand giving it to him is more dull.


Would you say it’s supposed to show how we make presuppositions about people’s success or otherwise?

Yeah, exactly. Either that, or if you see someone and you think, “Oh, they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth,”  but you really don’t know if they did work hard or not, or vice versa. It’s saying not to make assumptions about how people got to where they are.


Did your artwork aim to garner sympathy for the homeless, or did you want to leave the meaning up to the viewer?

I think originally I didn’t want it to have too much of a bias, because it was simply for the message, but I guess I did lean more towards sympathy since I made the homeless man’s story a bit sadder; but I didn’t really sympathize with the woman who was unsuccessful, and didn’t work for it. You could say it was mostly to view the people who are most looked down upon, because you don’t want to look down on people without knowing how they got [to where they are.]


Did you have any point of inspiration that you wanted to do this, or has it been in your mind for a really long time?

I feel like a lot of time I will do something, and then I won’t realize what has inspired me until afterwards. I’ll be making it, and I’ll see that this relates to something that I didn’t even realize.


Did you start with one first, and your ideas built upon that?

I think the idea of my project wasn’t as solidified as it was when I first started, I kind of just had an idea and it grew further from that. A lot of my inspiration has come from different aspects of my family. I know some sides of my dad’s family…were built on wealth, but on my side of the family, my mom has struggled through getting her medical degrees. I kind of reflected that through my art, but that’s not the entire meaning behind it. It wasn’t to show my personal experiences, but I could say it was built off of that.


Do you listen to any certain music when you’re painting these?

There was a song about people in [the film First Man] complaining that they were poor and they were struggling, and they’re sending people to the moon. That had an effect on me, because there are people that are wealthier, and there are others who are struggling.


Is there a certain place you like to paint best?

I mostly paint at home, because that’s where I am most of the time. I don’t have as much space or as many materials as I do at school, like if I were to be in Ms. Leong’s class. That’s probably one of my favorite places ever, just being in her class. I’ve been there a few years now. Right from the beginning, that’s where I started. Not my art hobby, but that’s where it grew from. Her class would be my favorite place to paint. It’s really open, especially with other artists around, it inspires you. It’s a nice environment. Everyone’s so supportive there.


Is there a point in time when you really started focusing your attention and meaning into art?

It’s always been something that I enjoyed, but I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. We had a person come into the art class and tell us about the Academy of Art University. I was intrigued, I never really considered it as a career until that day. I looked into it more, and I applied there, so I’ll be going there in September. I’m going to be moving to San Francisco, which is my favorite city.


What does art bring to your life?

When I watch movies, if I play video games or something, that’s what I want to get into more. I don’t think my career would be in canvas, or traditional art like this. Once I go to college and start learning how to do visual development, which is more design work for movies and video games. That’s what I want to get into. When I was a kid and I used to watch Disney or Pixar, it has an effect on people. I want to be part of that.


How has Ms. Leong supported you?

I’ve had art teachers in the past, but Mrs. Leong has always made the extra step to encourage people to capture the feeling they’re going for. Whenever someone is unsure of themselves, she always pushes them to get what they want. Even if it’s not expertise level, she always encourages them to love their art. She makes sure you’re doing it for yourself, not for a crowd. She’s always been a big inspiration, as long as I’ve known her, to pursue that.