Countless white ovals catching the light as they dangle from the ceiling on threads make up the art installation cloudscape by Hannah Claus now on display in Ekhardt Hall at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. A Queens University Journal article says cloudscape was inspired by a Haudenosaunee creation story. The Haudenosaunee or ‘people of the long house’ include the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. In the creation story Sky Woman comes down to earth from a world above. She then creates the land and everything that lives on it. Hannah Claus says she has tried to recreate the ethereal world where Sky Woman lived. What would it feel like to walk in a world like that? Hannah used an animated 3D computer program to help create cloudscape.
On the artouteast website Hannah says, “Clouds are basically masses of suspended drops of water in the sky, constantly shifting.” Her cloud art works express her interest in how all those microscopic drops come together to form different patterns and shapes. In an article on her website Hannah says clouds suggest creativity and community to her.
In her website biography Hannah compares her suspended art to wampum belts. Wampum means ‘river made by hand.’ On the Haudenosaunee website there is a detailed description of how wampum beads were made from clam shells and then strung together to form wampum belts. A wampum belt served as a sign that you held a certain office like chief or clan mother and was passed on to new officers. The beads on the belt represented different events in the history of the office and could be interpreted by specially trained warriors familiar with their nation’s past. Wampum beads can be traced back to the pre-colonial time of Hiawatha. Hiawatha’s wampum belt contained 6,574 beads. Hannah Claus, the creator of cloudscape studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design and received her masters at Concordia University. She is Mohawk from the Bay of Quinte on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Her work has been exhibited in Europe, South America and Central America. She lives and works in Montreal.
On Instagram Hannah is known as Cloudmaker. Very appropriate!