The Bottom Line

It’s about money. Artist Hanna van Goeler uses dollar bills as her canvas.

The Hunterdon Museum is exhibiting Hanna von Goeler: The Currency of an Altered State through March 21.

The site-specific installation uses simple objects to explore complex questions about currency. Defined as a circulating medium of exchange, currency flows and circulates like water. Currency is all about exchange–of ideas, ethics and culture, as well as goods and services.

The word “currency” can also mean general acceptance, prevalence, and even a quality of being up-to-date or in vogue. As an artist, Ms. von Goeler’s medium of exchange–her currency–is drawing and painting, as well as ideas. Her extensive and ongoing series of small paintings on one-dollar bills addresses this concept in provocative ways.

“I have been making my own currency for more than a decade and a half, chronicling not only my relationship and struggle with money, but exploring ethical, political, and aesthetic questions surrounding currency,” she says.

For this installation Ms. von Goeler has covered a full-size canoe with beads, inside and out, transforming it into a totemic object that “floats” across the center of the River Gallery. The canoe references the museum’s site on the south branch of the Raritan River, and implies an historic connection to the early Native American inhabitants who might have traveled by canoe, and used beads as trading currency. Von Goeler sees the museum’s location as a constantly evolving site, layered in its own history. It has been a point of agricultural, industrial and, most recently, cultural exchange, in its metamorphosis from mill to museum.

On the surrounding walls the artist has arranged several hundred of her altered bills in a pattern that suggests the flow of a river current. The bills, created over an extended period of time form a kind of timeline as well, highlighting personal moments, as well as economic trends and political events in the artist’s lifetime. The Currency of an Altered State invites viewers to consider their own ability to alter the meaning of objects.

Ms. von Goeler received her undergraduate degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, Davis. She completed additional post-graduate study at the Jan van Eyck Academy in the Netherlands. Her work has been exhibited widely both nationally and internationally. During the recent financial crisis, her currency work was exhibited in New York’s financial district, as part of the Habeas Lounge, a public art project sponsored by the World Financial Center. Her installation “The Shadows Cast by Ordinary Objects” can be seen at Hunter College’s Time Square Gallery in New York Feb. 18- April 17.

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