pain is the staff of life

Hannelore Storm

Posted in Blogroll, Uncategorized by ruthanzo on December 15, 2008

In the mid-1960s when I first attended Montréal’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts, most of us young students struggled to forge some kind of identity for ourselves, either through manner of dress, mysterious behaviour or quirky drawing style. It was a hard thing to do in the light of there being a young woman at the school who already appeared to be a fully-formed genuine ‘artistic article.’ This was the waifish Hannelore Storm. She wore only dark clothes, usually black or grey, black stockings, the only touch of colour was the red cap she wore on her small head, her light-brown hair trimmed in an uneven bob given to her by her Swiss boyfriend (there’s something erotic about having your boyfriend cut your hair and not a hairdresser.) Her work at the time was in the abstract-expressionistic vein and very dark. She knew who she was. But, who could we be? Hannelore was born in Schtetin, Germany (now part of Poland) and her family moved to Montreal some time in the 50s. She married young, 17 I think she said, maybe to get out of the house, the family lived briefly on the South shore before settling in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Her husband Gunther, also German-born, was a graphic-artist and because he was some years her senior he always seemed like more of a kind uncle or guardian. They were quite poor and lived in a series of broken-down flats in the center of the city. Her Swiss boyfriend also happened to be Gunther’s business partner and somehow they were all fine with this arrangement, very Jules et Jim. Hannelore and Gunther got around town on an old Lambretta scooter. The rest of us still lived at home in suburbs and rode the city buses to school. Her family’s grim experience as displaced-persons in post-war Europe was reflected in her art and and how she lived her life. She was the antithesis of bourgeois and could never be accused of light-heartedness though she could be very cutting and funny. In the late 70s, her more upbeat Quebec co-artists at Studio Graff in Montréal developed the annoying habit of exclaiming ‘c’est l’fun’ upon seeing anything that was either amusing or interesting.. ‘Cest l’fun’.. eh..as-tu vu son truc? c’est l’fun..c’est l’fun..ad nauseum. This expression so grated on her that she ran to her stone and produced a lithograph that screamed out ‘C’EST PAS L’FUN.’ It was very funny.

In the late 60s she went to New York City and worked for a short time as a waitress for Mickey Ruskin at his fabled Max’s Kansas City Bar the fave haunt of NYC’s bohemian nightlifers, its most famous patron being Andy Warhol. Hannelore had all the qualities Mickey R. looked for in his ‘serveuses.’ She was beautiful, thin, European (5☆s for a German accent) and aloof in a angsty sort of way. Somewhere in there, HL (as Dane called her) got a post-grad degree in Seattle before returning to Montreal where she eventually found peace and love with Sid, had daughter France and taught graphic arts for many years at l’Université de Québec à Montréal, all the while working at her art.

Below is a short film I assembled from stock that Hannelore and I shot in either 1973 or 74. (Her 21 year-old brother Christian had just died in a car accident so the atmosphere was charged.) In any case, the premise was that ‘each’ of us would visit the ‘other’ who would be busy at her ‘work.’ She filmed me running along Notre Dame St. East with its wayside cross (a relic from an earlier era,) then we stood in the middle of Papineau St. near Ontario E. in the freezing cold where we got a great view of the big spooky Pont Jacques-Cartier. Later, the voyeurish camera captures her at the drawing table in her apartment with the turret balcony on Guilbault and Clark. The score is Kathleen Ferrier singing Brahms. The text is from the Book of Ecclesiastes “One thing befalleth the beasts and the sons of men; the beast must die, the man dieth also, yea, both must die; to beast and man, the breath is given, and the man is not above the beast; for all things are but vanity.” The 1 min. film was entered in the M60 film festival this past September. The second half of the film where she visits me will be edited down soon. The filming came to a halt when our cat Louis knocked over the old 16mm Bolex that was sitting on a tripod and the parallax correction could never be adjusted again. Sadly, Hannelore left this world just a couple of years ago. Fortunately for us, she was a fairly prolific artist so her work is out there for people to see. She also made a number of experimental films on Super-8, some with her close friend Montreal artist Nancy Petry. Hannelore’s daughter France Suerich-Gulick organized a retrospective of her mother’s work this past Summer at a venue in Pointe St-Charles and I am hoping we will be able to see much more of it soon at some place like the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal where it certainly belongs.

Memories have come a-floodin’ back on this cold and rainy day so I will post another Hannelore anecdote soon.

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  1. yvon benoit said, on November 15, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Merci mil mercis
    J’ai connue Hannelore chez Graf
    Nous nous sommes perdu de vue, emporter par la frénésie de la vie
    Maintenant ayant un peu de temps j’ai cherché à savoir ce qu’elle était devenue
    J’ai trouvé votre texte et petit film si évocateur
    ‘Cé ben l’fun’
    Yvon Benoit


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