Home Close-Up: Gaylen Hansen, 97, Persists at Painting Nature’s Perils

Close-Up: Gaylen Hansen, 97, Persists at Painting Nature’s Perils

by Meredith Areskoug
Gaylen Hansen. Photo: Dale Cotton. Courtesy of Linda Hodges Gallery

LINDA HODGES GALLERY, Seattle WA – April 4 – 27

by Matthew Kangas

After years spent in the rolling hills and vineyards of southeast Washington, part of a region called the Palouse, painter Gaylen Hansen and his artist wife, Heidi Oberheide, moved five years ago to Freeland, Washington, a forested community on Whidbey Island, in Puget Sound. Not only has the new environment engendered in Hansen’s art a fascinating shift to spooky, darkened forests with unsuspecting hikers and cowboys, but it has driven a push toward noticeably thicker brushwork, deeper space, and a perhaps previously underappreciated emotional power.

“I wanted to do something with the space here, its complexity and the light. It could be impossible, but I wanted to try to not be too literal about it. Yes, there are darker moods, some unusual ones, and I’m not sure about this myself,” Hansen said from his isolated home and studio on Whidbey. “Could I get a rich, complex painting that still read simply – not repeating the 19th century?”

Gaylen Hansen, Kernal and Red Grasshopper, 2018, oil on canvas. Photo: Dale Cotton. Courtesy of Linda Hodges Gallery

“My New York shows at Monique Knowlton [Gallery] in the ’80s were different from when I lived there in 1945,” he recalled. “It was a brief period when figurative expressionism was big and my work was popular for a while,” culminating in a three-person show at the New Museum, NYC, followed by exhibitions in Berlin, New York, Washington, DC, and in Calgary, Alberta.

When quizzed about the eco-prophetic aspect of all his work, anticipating visions of current day endangered natural habitats and species, for example, Hansen admitted: “Regular nature is nasty, with predators preying on the weak to make the system go. You have the entire process of nature at work in the forest. The woods can be frightening but they can be wonderful and awesome. After all that, though, a painting is a painting, it’s not nature!”

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