Pity Party
Memory lies at the foundation of Hannah McCasland’s practice, but these memories are not always clear. They are conjured up through McCasland’s dreams as hazy recollections of a girlhood filled with both joy and anxiety and are manifest as ceramic dioramas that emphasize this emotional juxtaposition as a source of humor and healing.

In her Gluten Free Dairy Free Cake series, for instance, McCasland invokes the innocent memory of a birthday cake as a means to materialize the derisive comments made about her as a child by the adults in her life. The cakes are uniformly heart-shaped, but their form belies the emotional impact of the words “bitch” and “brat” scrawled atop them where a “happy birthday,” message should be. Even the saccharine symbol of the heart is rendered hostile by the details of its composition: McCasland’s slab construction gives the cakes pronounced edges, while ceramic points and dangling hearts adhered with metal wire make them visibly unpleasant to hold—let alone eat. This is not to say that the Gluten Free Dairy Free Cakes are devoid of love. Rather, they embody McCasland’s self-love; her ability to embrace past traumas with a sense of humor and strive towards a brighter future.

This capacity for humor in response to difficult times is also manifest in some of McCasland’s more overtly political dioramas, Abortion Pills Dispenser and Birth Control Pills Dispenser. Despite the attacks on reproductive freedom that have proliferated in recent years, these objects are pointedly unsubtle; their titles are inscribed on their surface in a powerful act of feminist defiance. While these dioramas may not be “about” memory in the same sense as her Gluten Free Dairy Free Cakes, they are, in a sense, memorials. Just as pottery shards and cuneiform tablets have offered historians a glimpse into the ancient past, McCasland imagines her ceramics as a record for the future. Her dispensers materialize the conflict and anxiety surrounding reproductive freedom in our current moment in the hope that those conflicts will soon fade into memory, leaving nothing more than memories, dreams, and relics behind.

—Mia Kivel

Artist Statement
I am a storyteller who builds autobiographical dioramas that are portals to my inner world, focusing on my connection to myself and others through time. Through a queer, neurodivergent, zillenial feminist lens, I am building twenty-first-century relics that embody my experiences, dreams, and memories. My visual journal of sketches and objects reflects things that haunt, soothe, and awaken. I am specifically interested in themes of identity, girlhood, mental health, humor, and love. My work is a celebration of self-reflection and absurdity.

Hannah McCasland (b. 1995) is a queer, neurodivergent, zillennial artist working with themes of identity. She creates relics of the present day relating to her experiences and memories. She focuses on her connection to herself and others through time, specifically referencing girlhood, feminism, mental health, dreams/sleep, humor, and love. Hannah is a current Master of Fine Arts candidate at The Ohio State University where she is expected to graduate in 2024.