Culture » Visual Arts

Hannah Moghbel paints to understand the perfect moments in her life


Hannah Moghbel paints oils, but her technique comes as much from watercolor as anything else. While studying art education at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, most of her coursework was conceptual, rather than technique-focused, but she took a liking to what she learned in a watercolor class. Over the 11 years since earning her BA, she’s refined her technique, thinning down oils to use them like watercolors.

“I use really thin paint application, and I just build up the layers over time,” she says. Thin layers help the oil paint dry faster, with a translucency that gives her more control over lighting. One of her most common subjects is fruit, and it’s that technique that makes her fruit look juicy, vivid and textured. It’s richer than photoreality, due to the intense focus she puts on every detail.

“I’d like to work more loosely, but I can’t help it,” she says.

For her upcoming solo show at SPQR, she’s also produced a few figure paintings, something unusual for her, and a sensitive subject besides. They feature a friend and fellow painter who, around two years ago, went missing for 10 days.
“What happened was, she developed a severe eating disorder,” says Moghbel. “She left a note — she left all of her money and phone and belongings, and she was going to go into the woods for 40 days and 40 nights and fast to get her eating disorder under control.”

To alert local parks personnel, Moghbel pulled photos from a recent reference shoot the two went on together. Ultimately, her friend was found and has recovered from the ordeal, Moghbel says.

“Looking back on those photos, they’re really gorgeous,” she says. “It just captured everything about our relationship at the time: the freedom of being young and being these very idealistic artists — people — that we were.”

“I’ve always been this romantic, idealistic person,” she says. “I spend a lot of time thinking about the past and these moments of perfection, I guess, that I relive in my mind. So I think that my art has a lot to do with trying to understand that and trying to hold on to these perfect moments.”

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