Helen Hawley [MFA ’14] is a difficult artist to pigeonhole. Her work includes sculpture, painting, artists’ books, weaving, prints, performance and video. “I don’t have favorites. I can’t even say that I go through phases, but I have been working more with drawing recently,” says Hawley.
Hawley was featured in the 2016 Wisconsin Triennial (her multi-media installation included a rain barrel with sound and video projection). You may remember her from the farewell takeover of the old incarnation of the Madison Municipal building in December 2016, where Hawley and Marina Kelly’s “Subterranean Garden” incorporated video, fragrance, ambient forest recordings and swan decoys.
Hawley’s latest show, A Song to Cross a Big Stream (Jan. 7-Feb. 16 at the Arts + Literature Laboratory) draws heavily on her recent month-long artist’s residency in Saint-Louis, Senegal. Hawley spent November at Waaw (pronounced “wow,” it means “yes” in Wolof, the main language in Senegal), an artist-centered cultural exchange. Her job was to create a foreigner-friendly map of Saint-Louis. The map focused on the city’s tourist center, an island separated from the mainland by the Senegal River and protected from the Atlantic by the barrier peninsula, which is home to many of the area’s fishermen. The new map includes art galleries, nightclubs and hotels, marketplaces — and, significantly, street names.