Notorious Women #8 – Visual Artist Magda von Hanau

CelebritiesCultureDecember 07, 2023

Magda von Hanau represents a journey from Brazil to the global stage, embracing her self-coined identity as a “daughter of the world.” Initially gracing the spotlight as a model and actress, she evolved into an accomplished sculptor, photographer, and designer. Hailing from the quaint town of Barra Bonita, she metamorphosed into a figure akin to German aristocracy. This profound transformation lies at the heart of Magda von Hanau’s essence, making her the perfect feature for our Notorious Women series, edition #8.

In this captivating interview, we delve into the myriad transformations that define Magda: embracing fertility, the nuances of motherhood, the pursuit of beauty, and the powerful feminine energy that radiates through her artistic endeavours. Join us as we uncover the multifaceted world of Magda von Hanau, where each facet of her life and work speaks to the universal themes of transformation and empowerment.

Magda von Hanau and One of the Sculptures from the Visceral Series

1- Magda, although both of us are Brazilian we met in Austria, where you have a house. You were spending a long time in Carinthia, having left your home in Miami during COVID-19, and it had been a long period since you last visited Brazil. That night, we talked about your life as a star in Italy, where you were an actress and TV host. How many lives have you lived and how many new Magdas have been born from all these experiences?

I believe “reinventing” yourself is something necessary for your own growth. I have always been curious about life and learning. Why be one version of yourself if you can be many of them? You have the chance to be reborn along with your new experiences and it’s a great way to understand yourself.

Two Pieces of the Series Memory Box

2- Every moment of your life is marked by an artistic expression. In Brazil, you were a fashion model; in Italy, you discovered yourself as an actress and after becoming a mother, you found your side as a visual artist. How do you use aesthetics and femininity as a form of expression?

The eye for beauty goes beyond traditional aesthetics. I have always looked at details and truly believe that you can find beauty in every environment. Being an observer made me realise that the eye has to travel. I was very lucky with my modelling career, it made it possible to use the beauty outside to feed and research the beauty within myself and my surroundings.

Femininity goes beyond the physical aspect, it is the attitude, the gesture, the confidence in how you move in the world, and expressing yourself.

3- Was becoming a mother the greatest transformation in your life and your form of expression?

The miracle of motherhood gave me a new purpose in life. For someone who has always lived alone, not being self-centred, it’s a lesson to be learned. I graduated in Visual Arts studies between my two kids and they have been a major inspiration. The love, joy, beauty, fear, and sacrifices of this new adventure inspired my creativity to communicate on different levels.

Being a woman also means you have to balance confidence and vulnerability at all times.

Memory Box Series

4- Looking at your work ‘Memory Box’, I see the influence of television. In your ‘Visceral’ series of sculptures, I see the influence of fashion. Would you say that different phases of your life are in constant dialogue in your work?

Absolutely. An art creation will always speak about its creator. My Memory Box project was born when I took my first daughter to Brazil, to the house where I grew up and its surroundings. Watching her moving around was like a reminiscence of my childhood, awakening emotions that I had to express. Repetition, time, space and memories are constant influences on my work.

Magda von Hanau and Her Visceral Sculpture in Red

5- Magda, in your ‘Visceral’ series, the curves, texture, and colours exude sensuality and evoke passion. What would you say is the most difficult emotion for you to control?

I like to hear people’s impressions about this body of work. It started as a painful experience I had and when I first looked at it for me it was only flesh, our bodily emotions resonating into form and shape. With time it was transformed into something else, it allowed me to learn to let go of things I am not in control of. Clay is a medium that teaches you that. This work speaks about femininity and our role of nurturing, trying to fix things, putting things together and therefore I started working with threads as well, also referring to our guts and the art of knitting that belongs to our cultural stereotype.
On some pieces you will see sculpted ears, in art they symbolize memory, awakening, intuition and the woman’s reproductive parts, working through our ephemeral expressions. The hardest emotion for me to control is the controlling itself.

Visceral Series

6- Last summer, you opened Meiselberg Castle for a group exhibition. What is it like presenting to the Austrian public?

Salon Meiselberg is another child of mine. In history, this house has always been a home for artistic gatherings of all creative forms. Painting, music, and literature have always taken place within its walls. It’s an honour for me to keep this legacy alive after all the amazing and strong women preceding me.

It was a beautiful and successful first edition with many more to come. In the USA I was connected with the art world and when we moved to Austria, I felt I needed to find that connection again, my tribe, people that appreciate and share my own visual language and ideas. Austria is an incredibly cultured-orientated society, so it was very appreciated.

7- Which Brazilian artists would you have in your art collection?

I love the works of Tarsila do Amaral, Adriana Varejão, Ernesto Neto, Henrique de Oliveira and many others. We have a very powerful heritage culture although considered a young nation. We have embraced all cultures throughout history and it’s beautiful to see that our artists can tell stories, even painful ones, in such a poetic way.

8- And what about American artists?

Louise Bourgeois, Mark Rothko, Simone Leigh, Patrick Dougherty and Julie Mehretu. I could start with them:-))

Artist Magda von Hanau 
dancing  while holding her sculpture Visceral at Castle Meiselberg

Magda von Hanau with one of her sculptures at Meiselberg Castle

9- What would you say to a woman who dreams of changing her life but still finds it daunting to pursue her dreams?

As a dear friend of mine always says “Life is not a rehearsal, the time is now”, one should be ambitious when it comes to dreams, why not dream big? Life without dreams makes no sense to me, once you think you’ve reached them all, it’s the end.
Every day is a gift and one should make the best of it. And remember, you are enough, you can achieve what you want when you put your mind and efforts into it. Just move towards your dreams and enjoy the experiences and lessons learned along the way, in the end, this is what it is all about.

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Photos @Gregor Khuen-Belasi