Duane Hanson: Jan.17,1925-Jan.6,1996...United
"I'm not duplicating life. I'm making a statement
about human values."
~ Duane Hanson
Part Pop Art, part Figuration, but a whole lot of super-realism, is the best way to describe Minnesota
sculptor, Duane Hanson. His work shows American society and looks at the individuals in our society.
He was first formally trained at the Macalester College in St . Paul, Minnesota. He went on to the Cranbrook Academy of Art
in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he earned his masters degree. “When I went
to art school, realism was a no-no. You always had to use your imagination and never copy. I see more inside these sculptures
than outside. That is what I manipulate to make forms look right and achieve a credibility. I never wanted to be tradition-bound
to so-called 'realist' concepts or procedures. I don't even like to discuss it." He then began exploring the
world, living in Germany for about seven years where he worked as an art teacher in US military bases. While in Germany, he
began to experiment with some new and unique art media.
Exploring the possibilities of synthetic media (polyester resin, auto body filler, and fiberglass
for the most part) Hanson found what would be known as his signature style. Continuing to teach in the United States, he was
becoming more and more known for his sculptural works. His works began to voice his views of civil rights, abortion, and gang
violence in the mid 1960s. This work was met with some dislike and even got his work banned from a few galleries. But kept
doing his work.
Hanson’s work is very unique. He would use live models to create the various parts if their
body before the part were joined together. He found people to play the role of the character he wanted to make or, at times,
he would make a character from molds from multiple people.
The works were meticulously painted before being finished with hair, clothing, and various accessories.
Most all of the artworks have a role: house painter, the cleaning lady, the tourists, and so on. My personal favorite experience
with a Hanson Sculpture happened at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. My wife and I were there on
a vacation. Having been there before, I mentioned to my wife that I recalled a Salvador Dalí room that I wanted to see (it doesn’t really exist at the Nelson-Atkins). I said that I was too
embarrassed to ask anyone and told her she should ask someone for me. Spotting a little old security guard we walk his way
so she could get directions to the room. As she got closer and closer there was not hesitation, but she got about four feet
from the man, looked over her shoulder and looked at me in a puzzled but almost knowing way, “he’s not real…”
This is how she met Museum Guard. With a uniform and badge the looks very similar to those at the museum, until you are virtually on top of him, with
no reactions from him, it is unsuspecting that he is art and not a guard. “I want the whole thing
to create a mood that comes through the forms when they're right." Hanson spent a great deal of the end of his life
living in Baca Raton, Florida. It was there that he died at the age of seventy due to cancer.
1975. Polyester, Fiberglas, oil, and vinyl. 69 x 21 x 13 inches. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri,