Sunday, June 21, 2009

Yale Art Museum

Duane Hanson-Drug Addict, 1974

This exhibit in the Yale Art Museum in New Haven, CT was a Duane Hanson sculpture of a drug addict with all his drug paraphernalia between his legs. This exhibit was completed by Duane Hanson in 1974. It portrays a male person sitting down and leaning against a wall. His right hand is holding a syringe and just above the left elbow his left arm is tied with a belt. His eyes are shut as he leans against the wall suggesting that he just injected himself with drugs.

In Duane Hanson’s work to form his sculptures, he would often photograph with his Polaroid his subject and work from that photo. His sculptures are cast from human models and then he uses polyvinyl and bondo (auto body filler) to make several body parts before assembling the body itself. After the body assembly, Hanson dresses the body and implants hair, and uses other accessories to complete is exhibit. Hanson wants to express that he does not want to duplicate his sculptures as imitating life, but he wants to make a declaration about human values, principles, morals or ethics. He also doesn’t like to put his sculpture subjects on a pedestal or view through rose-tinted glasses. He works on them vigilantly to present them as they might be in real life. He wants us to feel a link with his sculpture subjects so that our compassion will want to help those desperate individuals.

When I first saw this exhibit, I passed by it thinking initially that it was a real person sitting on the floor waiting for someone he was with that was just looking at another exhibit. As I continued through the museum looking at other exhibits, I eventually returned to this area again and still saw this person sitting. I still didn’t think anything about it, but didn’t want to stare or gaze longer than a glimpse. So I continued on to other exhibits in the area and then went to another floor. I eventually ended back up on the same floor to find another exhibit that I wanted to check out and I saw this person again. This time I took a longer glance and realized that it was a sculpture. So I walked closer and read the description and decided that it was worth mentioning as what I did often exhibits what we do in real life. We glimpse and glance, but don’t often take a closer look at people. How often do we miss opportunities to assist or help out because we don’t want to look closer?

Duane Hanson’s biography includes that he was born in Minnesota in 1925. He was a gifted sculptor and carver at a early age using various materials often from wood, broom sticks, etc. After receiving his degrees at the university he attended, he started to revolutionize his sculptures to a more abstract diversion which never really took off. He realized that he always tended to make his pieces of work into a figurative creation. In the 1950’s Hanson moved to Germany to teach art and he began to experiment with synthetic, artificial materials. When he returned to the United States in the 1960’s, his sculptures started to imitate political and social protests of that time, specifically racial discrimination and the drug society.

In conclusion, what drew me to this piece of art was the simple, but very complex piece of art. As mentioned before, it took me several times of passing this sculpture to realize that it was actually a piece of art. As I stood reflecting on this exhibit, it really drew me into a humanistic reflection of what might be done to help this person. The work conveys the loneliness and helpless of this person and the wonderment of whom this person actually was or could have been. Was this someone that impacted Hanson wanting to make a statement on the drug culture in all its complexity, but keeping really simple in its context of expressing his individual viewpoint? Many questions and thoughts were raised in observance of the piece of work by Hanson but the main thought still exists with me. How many times do we pass someone before we actually take notice of what is actually happening? It makes me want to observe more of what’s around me and see if I can make a difference to someone or in someone’s life if I can.

Work Citied:
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  1. I'm glad you revealed your process of gradually coming to realize that this was not a real person... and the shock of that realization created your interest in this piece.

    Hanson represents an embrace of narrative realism during the height of the domination of abstraction in the visual arts. His empathy for the human condition and his need to convey that through art was best accomplished through his striking full scale realistic sculptures.

    You should google "Duane Hanson drug addict" and see that your paper is high on the list of resources for the world for this piece.

    Good reflection, Jen... this encounter with art could not have happened in an art history classroom.

  2. Thanks Jerry! I just googled it, but didn't find it :(