Hannah Mackey explores her multiracial heritage with tiled sculpture | Lansing ArtPath Profiles
The Lansing River Trail is home to the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center’s 5th annual ArtPath exhibition throughout the summer.
Recent Michigan State University graduate Hannah Mackey designed a sculpture called In Memory of A Pond that can be found in Burchard Park.
The idea for her piece started with wanting to recreate the memories of playing at her great-grandparents’ house in Hawaii when she was a kid. She can still picture exactly what it looked like.
"The front, you know, with sort of its mini pagoda, the garden in the back which was very well tended to, their tangerine trees sort of on the sides of their house and then the chain link fence and the rock wall that was constructed."
The sculpture is her interpretation of that area in the front of the house with the pagoda and a little pond. It’s a two-foot-tall circular tiled bench.
"The surface is made up of, essentially, all these smaller tiles kind of moving towards the center," she said. "Some of them have these pressed designs into them that sort of mimic, you know, like waves or cloud formations."
There's sort of these changes that happen from tile to tile, and this sort of building of an identity through memory and in sort of like this very, you know, small, kind of, unit-by-unit, piece-by-piece way.
The 2000 tiles she made for the sculpture range in colors from light blue to purple to greyish-green, and along with the ones with designs embedded in them, there’s a meaning behind each being different.
"There's sort of these changes that happen from tile to tile, and this sort of building of an identity through memory and in sort of like this very, you know, small, kind of, unit-by-unit, piece-by-piece way."
Mackey says she’s also drawing upon her identity of being both white and Japanese with her art.
"It's sort of come up in everything. It's, you know, maybe unavoidable to a certain extent that, you know, it would be present in basically everything that I make," she said.
Growing up in Hawaii, she says she sometimes felt out of place in her own family when she could pass as white. But at the same time, being multiracial was a pretty common experience among those who live in the state. Her perspective changed, though, when she went to university.
Maybe it's sort of a metaphor for, you know, trying to find some sort of true identity, but, you know, that's not entirely possible, you're always just sort of constructing it as you go.
"Actually going to undergrad on the mainland, was sort of the first place I realized, like, 'Oh, you know, I feel like I've lost something,' you know? I've lost a sense of community that I maybe took for granted a little bit back home."
The sculpture’s design plays on that experience of self-identity never being static.
"Maybe it's sort of a metaphor for, you know, trying to find some sort of true identity, but, you know, that's not entirely possible, you're always just sort of constructing it as you go."
For her, the piece is also trying to find the middle ground in that journey.
"It's a circle, right? And so there's, you know, sort of a converging point to all of it," she said. "I think I just sort of connected with that kind of shape and just how sort of each of the little designs is sort of, you know, trying to reach that center."
Mackey encourages people who see her sculpture to touch it or even sit on it, especially since people aren’t always able to interact with art in a tactile way in museums.
"I really wanted people to be able to do that since, you know, that's sort of everyone's first instinct when they see it is like 'What does it feel like? Can we can we pick the tiles up and move them around and, you know, see them from all the angles?'"
You can find Hannah Mackey’s piece In Memory of a Pond in Old Town Lansing’s Burchard Park in a grassy area near the Brenke Fish Ladder.