Folio: Hannah Epstein on Rug Hooking and Art Churches

Folio asks artists and curators to gather works made with unexpected materials and adapt them for the printed page. In this issue we speak with Hannah Epstein, whose rug-hooking manifests the madness of the digital world into fiber.

Rug hooking is an artistic medium I am largely known for, but my practice is rooted in video and computers. I’m talking 1997 skipping out on junior high classes so I could edit in Avid Cinema. I’m talking Catacombs and Capture the Flag on the home PC. It’s these mid-late 90s digital technologies that shaped my aesthetic worldview in concert with the physical folk art that surrounded my meatspace life. It’s been this diffi-cult balancing act ever since to try and find a way to combine these pixelated, rough hewn edges into a singular medium or style. Often, I will try to manifest recognizable memes like NPC characters into textiles, and then I will try to bring my textiles into interactive works, like with my game app, Hanski’s Burlap of Chaos.

When we scroll online and quickly consume a meme image there is something so fleeting about the experience. When I take the concept embedded in the meme and stretch it out in time and make it physical by rug hooking it, it hopefully becomes something we can dwell on as, what I see, as the foundational archetypes of a new, emerging mythology.

When the last of my life in Toronto fell apart and the pandemic was just beginning, I moved back to Nova Scotia. At that point I was a represented artist with a growing base of collectors and I needed a studio space and a home. I found a church on the south shore and it was cheaper than anything else on the market. A couple summers ago my friend Andre Cairns and I started show-ing work in the main hall, calling it CCHHUURRCCHH, showing artists often alongside a DJ set, combining art openings with raves, country style. The first one had a bunch of dudes on ATVs show up and make a big entrance to show that they weren’t scared off by the weirdos who had moved into the neighbourhood.

Personally, I’m now sick of it all. I really love the south shore and the incredible community of people I found there, but as a project space, I am ready to put it behind me and embrace the world again. The church is currently on the market, FYI, in case any of your rich Toronto friends are interested. It makes a good part time B&B.

You can see more of Hannah’s work at HAN.SKI.