Art so good you could eat it

Art+so+good+you+could+eat+it

Adrian Lucas

As she opened the creaky door, a cool breeze grazed her face. The stairs squeaked as she pitter-pattered down the steps, got on her tiptoes and pulled at a string to turn on the light. The light bulb swayed back and forth, illuminating laundry, an old couch, boxes of pictures and other knick knacks. She pushed aside one of the sheets hanging up to dry and walked proudly into her painting workshop. Tucked in the back corner of a musty basement is where 21-year-old Hannah Grace Donohue creates her gallery-worthy art.

“I know it’s quaint and kind of scary looking, but this is my safe place. It’s quiet and helps me focus on my art,” Donohue said while turning on a Hello Kitty lamp.

The workshop had one couch tucked in a corner, canvases strewn around the room, an old workbench covered with paint, brushes and old color pallets. Tools hung in their spots above the workbench, tiny paint drops decorated the tools in random splatters and colors. It was evident that an artist resided there.
Donohue was born and raised in Marquette with her twin sister, Hailey, both seniors at Northern Michigan University. Donohue is almost finished with her bachelor’s degree in the fine arts program with a concentration in drawing and painting, whereas her twin is almost finished with her major in child psychology.

Her most successful art is derived from a painful past and relationship with food. She suffered from a severe eating disorder from the age of 14 to 19. Standing 5 feet tall, her petite build makes her eating disorder that much more dangerous. Her obsession with what she consumed, how much she consumed and how much others consumed monopolized all of Donohue’s thoughts and almost ended her life.

Donohue is now fully recovered and uses her experience to inspire her art and others with eating disorders. A lot of the art that she sells and presents features realistic representations of food and people.Eyes shifted downwards, her fingers grazed over the scars on her arms as she spoke about her eating disorder.

“The experiences I had in that time left me with a great awareness of how I interact with food and just as importantly, how the people around me do. I have been conditioned by my experiences to constantly be considering how much I’ve eaten in a day and if I’m eating appropriately,” she said, putting air quotes around the word appropriately.

She stopped, sighed and set her paintbrushes down. Donohue walked over to the couch and sat down cross-legged. She explained it was a meditative process to make art about the relationship between food, people and the emotional impact it has on their lives.

“I now use my fascination with the relationship people have with food as a focus for my art. That unique, differing relationship will always inspire my work since it has and will continue to be a very large part of my life,” Donohue said. “I can channel my emotion through my art and make pieces of art that I am proud of.”

In March, some of Donohue’s paintings are being showcased at the “Michigan Collegiate Art Exhibition” at the Lansing Gallery and Education Center. In addition, some of her art will be presented in the Senior Art Exhibition at the DeVos Art Gallery at NMU this coming April. Prior to these two exhibitions, Hannah shared how her first work was showcased in the halls of Marquette Senior High School during her senior year.

Her first piece was a greyscale portrait in charcoal on toned paper. It was created in the first art class Donohue enrolled in. Prior to this art class, Donohue focused on taking cooking classes with the hope of becoming a chef. However, after the praise she received from her portrait, Donohue started to change her mind about what she wanted to do after high school.

“After gaining recognition for this piece and realizing how fulfilled I felt following, I knew I wasn’t going to stop creating,” Donohue said.
Since then, Donohue’s art has incorporated more colors and a wide variety of different mediums ranging from acrylic paint, to watercolors, to colored pencils, chalk and more. Her art depicts very realistic images of people and food to the point where her paintings look as if you could grab the piece of fruit right off the canvas and eat it.

Donohue’s twin sister is her greatest supporter and inspiration for her art. Her twin encourages her to share her art with the public, gives her new ideas for what she should paint and helps critique her art. Although the sisters are identical twins, they do not have the same interests and goals.
“My sister and I are different on very superficial levels,” Donohue said while tucking a loose strand of her purple hair behind her ear. “We have different styles, different interests in music and art and different forms of communicating. I’ve had hair colored every shade of the rainbow, I have many piercings and tattoos cover 50 percent of my body. All this aside, we think very similarly and possess the same values. Because of this, I am able to share my art with her and hear how it relates to her own life in the ways that differs from mine, but know that it can speak to a similar part of her that it does in me.”

Other pieces of Donohue’s work have been displayed at the Bonifas Art Center in Escanaba, Michigan, at the Student’s Art Gallery at NMU and in a silent auction art gallery at the Ore Dock Brewing Company.

“I go to all of Hannah’s art shows. I am so proud of her, and I may be biased, but I think her art is absolutely beautiful. She shares her heart through her art, and it has helped me better understand my sister,” Hailey Donohue said. “Just because we are twins, doesn’t mean we are the same, so by sharing my experiences helps Hannah gain new perspectives and ideas for her art.”

Donohue has already sold 17 pieces of art. With her own website, she’s propelled her work into the merchandising world of contemporary art.
“Making art is not cheap,” she said. “Selling my art has helped me continue to afford to create new art. It is an artist’s greatest pride to know that the work they have made has communicated something meaningful to someone, and it’s the best inspiration to keep creating.”

Donohue’s art captivated the eyes of Kayla LaJoye, a junior in the pre-physician program, who got her art tattooed on her body. LaJoye found the piece of art she wanted while scrolling through Donohue’s Instagram page, reached out to Donohue and asked if it was okay that she got it as a tattoo. Just days later, LaJoye had Donohue’s leafy Enso painting permanently on her foot.

“Hannah’s meaningful art was so relatable to me during a difficult time in my life, so I decided to get one of her paintings as a tattoo. The piece I chose stood out to me and just made sense. It is a daily reminder to let go of my worries and let my mind be free. I absolutely love it,” LaJoye said.
With graduation in the foreground, Donohue hopes to move out of Marquette to continue her dreams as an artist. Her goal is to move to California with her sister to become an apprentice at a tattoo parlor. Eventually she aims to open her own tattoo studio with a steady client base.

“I’ve grown up in Marquette, and I have a deep love and respect for this town. But it’s about time I move away and experience something new…preferably somewhere warm,” she said with a sigh while glancing out the tiny basement window that was buried in snow.
Donohue then hopped off the couch, walked across the room and grabbed her new tattoo gun. The gun was loud and vibrated as she tattooed a shaky heart onto the squishy, fake skin.

“Tattooing might be the hardest medium I’ve ever had to work with. Like this [explicative] is hard. I’ve found something that I’m seriously passionate about and something that gives me a sense of self confidence and pride,” Donohue said. “It makes everything else I’ve struggled with seem worth it. Keep an eye out for me, because the best of me is yet to come.”