Cockfight. Shewolf. Worms. Nipples. The Natural Progression of Artist Hannah Sung / by jami milne


I had roughly 11 minutes to spend with Hannah Sung one afternoon in which we were both to blame. But we met with two hand-squeezed rose lemonades and a giant, sparkling, sequined nipple between the two of us and somehow, we were lost in time. It feels unfortunate there was not more time or hand-squeezed lemonade or sequins.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock the past year, or have zero connection to the art scene in what the Des Moines Partnership affectionately refers to as DSMUSA, you’ve heard of Hannah Sung. You’ve seen her nipples. They’ve strutted through Mainframe Studios and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, down Court Avenue and for the well-traveled, they’ve been in Bangkok and Cuba, which give them both literal and figurative street cred. Have your nips been there? Didn’t think so.

Hannah’s chops come in the form of riffing about a commercial career in Los Angeles but as any Iowa transplant can attest, we’re here now, so what. She’s moved on and so has her work. She left behind the stringent upbringing and the successful paycheck to create for herself. 

  • I asked Hannah about her childhood and the hours of forced illustration growing up in a strict Korean household. But I wanted to know more about how she’s adapting to a life in Des Moines vs. a life in LA.

  • I asked Hannah about her concept and who she was confident was and wasn’t her audience. But I wanted to know more about her vulnerabilities.

  • I asked Hannah about her journal and if I could take a quick snapshot, when instead I wanted to ask her more about her journal and if I could take a portrait of every page.

  • I asked Hannah about the dog in the picture but instead I wanted to hug her and hold her and cry about the dog in the picture. It was her dog, but it was my dog. Maybe it was all of our dogs.

  • I took a photograph of Hannah sitting next to her art in a coffee shop but instead wish I could sit across from her for hours in her studio, taking photographs of her talking about her art and illustrations and nipples and dog and childhood.


The thing about Hannah is that her art is arresting and disruptive. She is clever and cunning and curious and just damn funny. But beneath the authentic comedic presence, beneath the boobles and beneath the journal on a bag of USDA organic coffee beans, is something frighteningly familiar: that young child we all once were — and we all are fighting for the chance to be once again: loved, inspired and free.

Get to know the nipples and the greater story they hold on Thursday, June 27 during Art Week Des Moines, at Hannah’s Open Studio from 6-9PM. In addition to artistic boobs there will also be a rapping pirate so really, what excuse do you have to not be there? None.