BANGOR, Maine — Hannah Kreitzer sits at her family’s wooden kitchen table in a farmhouse on the outskirts of Bangor and uses a pen to draw in her well-used sketchbook while she keeps an ear out to listen to the antics of her new puppy.
But with Kreitzer, 27, no matter where she is in the world, you get the sense that she is also somewhere else, contentedly wandering a mythical landscape of her own creation, one she populates with hyenas, dinosaurs, crows and bears and illuminates by the faraway light of distant stars.
She is an artist, but one whose vision looks beyond lovely lighthouses or cheerful oceanscapes. Instead, when making art with favored mediums that include embroidery, pen-and-ink, woodburning and more, she finds inspiration in archaeology, ancient history, ecology, music, scavenger animals and outer space.
She offers her art under the name of “Hallowbone,” which she describes as “art from the crosswind of symbol, story and natural history, offered up with baffled gratitude for being alive on earth,” and at first it can seem like a lot to take in. But when you see the outcome, such as tiny nesting dolls painted as a family of wise-looking seals or Star Wars characters, or dinosaurs embroidered on a table runner, or a polar bear wearing a polka-dot necktie, or a family recipe book illustrated with apron-wearing bears and wolves, it starts to make sense.
“All of those things mesh together very seamlessly in my world view,” she said. “Truth is made of a big web of intermeshed realities.”
One of those realities for Kreitzer, a Bangor native, has to do with her lifelong affinity for animals and the natural world. As a child, she had a hard time in school, where she didn’t really fit in. Her parents periodically “unschooled” her, letting her direct her own education, and at home, she spent time outdoors and with her animals. She also immersed herself in art, spending hours and hours trying to draw horses just right. She also found a sense of belonging and connection in books, including Calvin & Hobbes comics by Bill Watterson and the picture books of Jan Brett, who creates imaginary worlds where animals and humans interact. In fact, Kreitzer harbors dreams of writing and illustrating books for children herself one day.
“I look at so many picture books and they’re just dumb,” she said. “I would rather have something that gave me a beautiful insight into something like death. I feel like I absorbed so much when I was a kid — I think a sense of wonder is so critical to absorbing anything.”
Wonder is a constant thread in her art. For the last few years, she has drawn a calendar that she has sold on her Etsy store and in some Belfast shops, and the 2017 Hallowbone calendar is called “Kin.” In January, a bald, berobed man with binoculars around his neck and two strong-looking lions gaze up at something that is just out of the viewers’ sight. In February, a woman standing in a snowy forest hugs a tall reindeer. In March, a towering brown bear and a serene woman bake bread together in a cozy kitchen.
The calendar has been a local favorite in Waldo County, where Kreitzer has lived and worked for the past few years. Sarah Mattox of Swanville said the Kin calendar was the only present she and her husband, Aaron Bauman, gave to their family members for Christmas this year.
“It’s been fun to watch Hannah’s art develop and grow over the years,” Mattox said. “I especially like her fascination with animals and combining the world of folklore and myth with our commonplace, everyday existence.”
Wes Reddick of Belfast, a sculptor who also has known Kreitzer for several years, said that he finds her vision of the world to be profoundly hopeful.
“The animals that she pictures and their relationship with the human beings that she draws, these animals would have to be pretty forgiving to have this kind of relationship with us, after what we’ve done to them,” he said. “And I think she is generous with her vision, and unafraid of being this hopeful. Because the line quality of her animals is fairly bold it seems like her wishfulness is almost attainable. She’s sure about this. It’s not a wispy watercolor. The line quality helps bring these images down to earth. This could be almost real.”
For Kreitzer, who still can be more comfortable in the company of animals rather than people, sharing her art and her vision is one important way she connects to her human kin. She doesn’t limit herself to pen and paper or even to wooden nesting dolls, either.
“In line with the scavenger theme, almost every surface I stitch or burn or sketch has been scrounged from thrift shops, hand-me-down boxes, the back corners of attics and closets and old barns,” she said.
And she’s happy to reflect other people’s visions, too, through the commissions she enjoys taking on. They can be for a Star Trek-themed set of nesting dolls or anything, really, limited only by one’s imagination.
“It’s very satisfying for me to be able to make something you’ve been seeking,” she said.
But don’t expect her to drop the sense of wonder as she works on other people’s ideas.
“We all know what that feeling is, when we’re out in the woods and we encounter something holy. Something real. Something true,” Kreitzer said. “I don’t think we can operate without a degree of awe. The earth we live in is so incredible and so abundant. Art is hard, sometimes, because it seems like such a superficial thing to people. Something that isn’t necessary. But it’s how I tell the truth.”
To contact Kreitzer, write to firstname.lastname@example.org