Florida artist Holly Hanessian looks at art with a scientific slant. Her current project, Touch in Real Time, combines the art of porcelain clay with the social engagement of a handshake and the neuroscience of human hormones. On Saturday, Sept. 14, she will spend two hours shaking hands with the public at Biloxi’s Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art from 2-4 p.m.
With each handshake, Hanessian adds another element to her work. She holds a pad of porcelain clay between her hand and that of the person or persons with whom she is shaking hands. They maintain the clasp for 10-15 seconds. Within that time, the powerful hormone oxytocin releases. According to Psychology Today, oxytocin acts as a neurotransmitter and plays a large role in pair bonding. Thus, each clay artifact represents a bonding moment between Hanessian and the other party.
Beginning with the first handshake in 2011 in Tallahassee, Hanessian has recorded each contributor and identified the imprint by contributor. She anticipates over 900 artifacts of handshakes will appear in the final work. Her cross-country tour provides opportunities for people of all walks of life to participate in the social engagement aspects of her project.
Hanessian raised funds for part of her project through the public-funded Kickstarter program, adding another level of bonding to the final art work. When she finishes the tour, she’ll return to her Florida studio to fire the pieces. She’ll convert them into an installation art exhibit of floor-to-ceiling strings of imprints, all strung on metal cables to form a sculpture of the double helix shape associated with DNA.
The finished sculpture debuts at BNY Mellon in Pittsburgh under the auspices of Society for Contemporary Craft Oct. 4, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014. It then moves to the UNC Cullowhee Museum of Fine Art until April, 2014. She expects the installation to travel to other locations in the future.