“I always wrote stories, played stories, did everything with stories, as long as I can remember. I started drawing because it helped me tell stories, “says Hasse. “As I got older, I became interested in many different media - animation, video, performance - and used them all to create fantastic dramas.”
Hasse is currently working on an electronic graphic novel which is, unsurprisingly, set in Chicago. Freaks’ Progress is a morality tale dealing with various denizens of the city who are trying to get ahead and are confronted with a plethora of issues in their various quests.
“This is a story that has been evolving for over twenty years. It will live as a main narrative online, but I also use the characters in my exhibition and public art practice.” says Hasse. “The characters in Freaks’ Progress have grown with me through twenty years in Chicago. Some of them are fantastical in form, and some of them have lived experiences that place them in fantastical circumstances. So again, as in Dickens’ work, the story is character-based, and pretty epic.”
Freaks’ Progress is set for release February 2015.
“There are several key plot points in the Freaks’ Progess story that involve large bodies of water. I’m using the theme of this show to explore those moments in an iconic way,” she says. “The pieces I show will both act as panels in the comic, and also stand on their own as works of art.”
But there is more of a connection between her work and the two cities. Two of the main characters in the novel are Cuban
“I’m exploring that experience through both general research, and conversation with my boyfriend, who was born in Havana. I look forward to presenting that work in Miami, a place that has such a strong connection to and history with Cuba,” says Hasse. “And honestly, I am also a little nervous about it - because my approach to that history is all second hand at best. I hope to do a good job!”
“That is especially true when I make videos. I love presenting skilled performers with my ideas, and seeing how they bring them to life. I also look at my own comic characters that way - as creative performers who have their own input,” she says. “I may have an idea for a character that changes dramatically as I implement it, because I gradually realize that the character would do something differently than I had originally expected.”
Hasse also feels her work connects with today’s culture in another way—in the ever evolving way people view themselves.
“In contemporary culture, it seems like a lot of people look at themselves through the lens of an avatar - an online avatar, their Facebook personality, or a personal brand. The avatar is generally an idealized representation of one’s hopes and dreams,” says Hasse. “Through my characters, I think am creating multiple, very flawed and human avatars; and through them, trying to see situations from many different viewpoints.”
When asked about whether she creates art with an audience in mind Hasse is unequivocal.
“Definitely - but the aesthetic is also part of the point I’m making. At its heart, my work is about survival, and it is triumphant in that respect,” she says. “But survival requires honesty about who people really are, and about both the stupid and the noble choices that they make.”
The artists she feels are inspirational in her life and work are not what you might expect; there are no Picassos or Rembrandts on her list. She looks to people she knows personally for inspiration.
Essentially, I admire people whose work is complex, world wise, and uncompromising,” she says.
Chris Sullivan, one of Hasse’s own instructors in grad school, is one artist she admires.
“He creates intensely surreal narratives that speak directly to your subconscious, without flinching. His background in performance art really shows in the fluid, improvisational quality of his work,” she says. “He recently released a feature length narrative animation, that he produced independently (think about that for a minute, people) called “Consuming Spirits.” If you get any chance to see it, DO IT.”
Other artists she admires are Usama and Kristie Alshaibi.
“I mention them together because they are married, but they are amazing independently, while also making a fantastic creative team. One of my favorite pieces of theirs is The Amateurs, which is a farcical docudrama about an amateur porn shoot,” says Hasse. “It’s raw and just hilarious, pointing out all sorts of human frailties in the context of a situation where everyone is at their most vulnerable. They also made a film called Nice Bombs, about Usama’s return to his home country to visit his family after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Usama’s latest work is a documentary called American Arab. Again, their work is unflinching and unorthodox - which I really admire.”
She also mentions Tracy Kostenbader, described by Hasse as a “fixture in the Logan Square neighborhood” of Chicago.
“..she has been both creating her own art and organizing community arts events for years. Tracy was one of the very first serious social justice activists I ever knew, and she showed me how much dedication is required for both art and activism,” says Hasse. “Recently I’ve been showing in a lot of her neighborhood events, and they’re always incredibly well presented and organized. Tracy’s own work is both monumental and intimate - much of her imagery involves powerfully depicted household objects like utensils, furniture and tools. She’s also a graphic designer and book preservationist; she can do a lot of things very well!”
Many of the artists Hasse admires in the Windy City (as you may have noticed) weave social issues into their work. Of course this is no surprise considering Hasse’s own work does likewise. Another socially conscious artist Hasse praises is Laurie Jo Reynolds.
“Laurie Jo Reynolds is a force of nature; she combines a background in public policy with a keen knack for social commentary. In grad school, I loved her absurd “documentary” video about a visit to the Thomas Jefferson plantation, and her performance art based play about three southern icons and how they deal with the fall of the south,” says Hasse. “I also taught with her briefly, and her creativity in the classroom betrays an intense devotion to her students. The biggest project of hers I have been involved with is Tamms Year Ten, a multi-year, multi-media project which grew out of a campaign to write letters to prisoners in Tamms SuperMax Prison in southern Illinois. Long story short, that campaign helped raise awareness of human rights abuses in that facility, and also helped to ultimately shut it down.
Finally Hasse talks about her appreciation for self-taught cinematographer, Anike Bey.
“She needed someone to do sound on her film, Girls Like Us 2.0,the second installment in a series focusing on African American lesbian relationships. Anike spent years working in social service. A couple years ago she started her MFA in film at Governor’s State, and she has since created two films with a fiercely dedicated audience,” says Hasse. “In the latest installment, she addresses domestic abuse in the lesbian community. She works tirelessly, learns constantly, and tells a good story. She’s also very focused on the money aspect of the business, which is something I can always learn from.”