Two Queen Suite #20
about the artist Joan Hanley
“The shock of death often produces seismic changes in a person. I had been a painter and illustrator for over 25 years when, in 1991, my husband suddenly died and I found myself at a new threshold in life, forced to reevaluate what had been basic to my being – my art. Change at such an unsettling time was painful; however, the ultimate result was personal and artistic growth, a metamorphosis of my lifelong work.
When I decided to enroll in both the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy, I did not anticipate the enormous challenge I would face. At the Art Institute, Preston Jackson, my mentor, an incredibly prolific and gifted sculptor, taught me to move around the human figure in order to understand its form and manipulate it to express my personal vision. For three years I worked primarily in the figurative sculpture. One day I was struck by how much my model resembled a rabbit. I transformed the work in progress – a woman – to a humanoid, resulting in the birth of a creature both magical and mystical. I still do not fathom her air of enigma and charm. And so I began a series of rabbits and the development of a cast of characters open to multiple interpretations.
At the American Academy, I studied at the feet of the master, Irving Shapiro, an inspirational teacher, a great watercolorist, a gentleman of the old school. He wore a suit and tie to class and insisted that we all address him as ‘Mr. Shapiro”. His approach to watercolor was consistent with the long history of the medium. I have done extensive experimentation with watercolors since then and feel that my style is the logical outgrowth of a long and sometimes frustrating search to use the medium as a spontaneous recording of nature and architecture which has increased my enjoyment of painting immeasurably.
The freedom to move back and forth from painting to sculpture has altered my approach to both. Creating three dimensional space encouraged me to renew my interest in a bas-relief, surface coloration and patination. My journey out of two dimensions and into a third was gradual, a perspective which may never have happened had I not studied sculpture. I’ve been fortunate to have found good teachers but my life’s passage has taught me to trust my intuition and dictate its perimeters.
My mother, a sculptor, and father, an architect, met in Chicago in 1932 while both worked on the Century of Progress World’s Fair. They were the first of three generations of artists. In two other cities, in the same spirit, two of my children are pursuing art careers.” - Joan Hanley, Born 1938