January 2011


Artist's Hand

Assistant Professor of Art History and self-described “Museum Hound” Christine Hahn attributes her passion for art history to her mother, in part. “Our family traveled extensively, and any botanical garden or museum within a certain radius of our destination we visited,” laughs Hahn. “I didn’t like the botanical gardens, but I loved the museums.” Today she’s married to “K” alumnus David Johnson ’95, a former plant pathologist and amateur botanist: “So I still have to go to the botanical gardens.” Hahn is forthright about her inability to make art, and continuously amazed at “how humans can make these beautiful things” she cannot. One seminal moment occurred in eighth grade when she attended a Matisse exhibit and stood in front of one of his works. “I stood where he stood when he painted it in 1909!” she exclaims. “It was like time travel; I could see his paintbrush marks; I was in his Paris. An artist’s hand is very important to me.” Some years later a high school teacher asked what she planned to study in college. “I blurted ‘art history’ without even knowing those two words were linked as a discipline for study,” recalls Hahn. “The teacher said that was great, that colleges offer lots of courses in art history, and I remember how happy I was to hear that.” Otherwise, one could suppose, she’d have had to forge the discipline herself in order to accommodate her passion.

What’s the best song ever recorded?

“I narrowed it to three. ‘Dreams’ by Van Halen and ‘Living on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi are great Karaoke belters. And ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is my Euro Trash favorite.”

What’s your favorite childhood fairy tale or story?

The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
! It’s about two runaway kids who live in the Metropolitan Museum.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

“Welcome! And your dog can come in too.”

What’s your favorite word?

“Ouagadougou” [WAH-gah-doo-goo] “It’s the capital of Burkina Faso, and was a staple in high school French class conversations I’d have with my husband.” [The two have known each other since their high school days in Okemos, Michigan.]

What’s your least favorite word?


What turns you on?

“Crisp things”

What turns you off?

“Well, I guess, mushy things.”

What sound do you love?

“A marching band on a cool fall day”

What sound do you hate?

“A phone ringing”

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

“This is the hardest question, which my husband says might be a sign that I have my dream job. I’ll say a socialite, or a hermit, or a socialite-hermit, someone who spends time doing both.”

What profession would you not like to participate in?

“A mid-level manager of a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania”

What’s been a GREAT MOMENT in your liberal arts learning?

“There are so many. Here’s just one: in winter quarter 2009 I was in Biggby’s coffee shop with a group of students discussing a difficult text on race and art, and after struggling with the text for while, a student who was usually very quiet spoke up with an insightful comment that gave each of us at the table a collective ‘Ah-Hah.’ We all seemed to pause to appreciate the moment, and I thought to myself: this is what it’s all about.”

Who’s the person (living or dead) with whom you’d most like to spend a lunch hour?

“Ruth Reichl. She’s the former editor of Gourmet Magazine, and a terrific writer with a wonderful way of describing things. She seems like she’d be a lot of fun, and I’d love to let her choose the lunch spot.”

What memory from childhood still surprises you?

“Like my song choices, I’m going to have to go with three, all from my middle school years: the Matisse I mentioned before; experiencing a Patrick Ireland room installation at the Detroit Institute of Arts (I sat in that space for an hour, mesmerized); and lastly, seeing my first Jackson Pollock painting at the MoMA.”

What is your favorite curse word?

“Eff! I abbreviate often.”

What is your favorite hobby?

“Reading—mostly contemporary fiction and nonfiction. Occasionally I’ll use the practice rooms in the basement of Light Fine Arts to play around on the piano, and I’ve been wanting to play the cello more, but I haven’t done either in a while. I’m currently immersed in the “strangers and brothers” series by C.P. Snow, and one of my favorite recommendations is Richard Russo’s Straight Man. I loved that book so much I quoted it in my dissertation.”

What is your favorite comedy movie?

Team America

What local, national, or world event has affected you most?

“The Korean War. It’s a period I continue to study, and it continues to impact the world today.”

If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose?

“I hope so!”

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1 RESPONSE TO Lighten Up
Evie on February 18, 2014 at 6:56 am
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