In many of Hannah Yata’s oil paintings, humanoid figures with tribal body paint and fearsome masks look back at us as if we’ve disturbed their communion with nature. We get the distinct feeling we are witnessing something beyond our understanding, even taboo — like tourists wandering into a Hopi ceremony, we are unwelcome voyeurs. What their masks mean can never be known — indeed, if they even are masks. The more you look at these creatures with their colorful flourishes, the less you feel they’re humans. They seem to have tails, wings, donkey ears, and some of their bodies seem to open up and divide most unnaturally.
A selection of her remarkable paintings is on display at Paul Booth Gallery in New York, at 325 W. 38th St., through October 5, 2019.
This is a new realm of mythology, in which Yata gives us previously unseen beings as disturbing as the chimeras or sphinxes we know. Yata has been getting a lot of press in recent years, with coverage from taste-making magazines and art blogs like Beautiful Bizarre (she is on the cover of the current issue), Juxtapoz and Hi-Fructose.
Her work could obviously be classified as surrealism and magic realism, although there’s another important ism that surely has to be at work — symbolism. And yes, her work is symbolic, but no, it’s not always clear to the viewer or her. She told WowxWow:
At first, the symbolism was pretty cut and dry. Woman = Mother Nature, Fish = seemingly insentient creature with face like a mask, cue strange elements that speak of man’s destruction of the environment. However, the more I paint, the more I try to not to think so much as ‘this’ equals ‘that.’ I like the honesty and mystery that comes out through my explorations in life and by enlightening myself through a variety of different resources, including the randomness of everyday life.
For more of Hannah Yata’s work, visit her official site hannahyata.com, and her Facebook page facebook.com/hannahfaithyata. The show at Paul Booth Gallery in New York (a dual exhibition with her husband Jean Pierre Arboleda) runs through October 5.