Duane Hanson (1925-1996) was a sculptor
who specialised, throughout his career, in creating super-realistic 3-dimensional
images of everyday Americans going about their everyday lives. His work has been shown in various galleries
and museums throughout the world, and some of his figures are currently on display at "I am a Camera
", an exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery
Hanson first took up sculpture as a teenager - teaching himself to carve and sculpt using his mother's butcher's knife and working on old logs or broomsticks. He always showed an interest in and inclination toward the human form, and enjoyed re-creating it in whichever material came to hand.
He sculpted as a hobby throughout his primary career as a professor, always retaining the same theme.
During the 1950s, he did experiment with the abstract expressionism which dominated the period but couldn't shake his fascination with realism, he explains "I would try to do abstract work, but I always put a bit of an arm or nose in it. I never could do just non-figurative work."
Sculpture became his full-time career in 1967, after he had honed his technique to a reliable means of body casting. Using synthetic resin, he made a mould from the body and used it to cast a three-dimensional sculpture. Each figure was cast in several sections before being joined together. Hanson then painted the surface in careful detail, creating uncannily life-like skin tones, and added the accessories and props. Although he went on to experiment with other methods and media, this was his most oft-used and successful modus operandi.
He used several people, rather than one as the basis for each figure, and often spent as long as a year on a single figure.
The striking thing about his work is the stunning realism - when placed haphazardly around the gallery, the figures are indistinguishable from actual people. In this way, Hanson took sculpture off its pedestal and removed the boundary between art and life. He represented a cross-section of American society, focusing on the sense of resignation he found in many ordinary people's lives and the look of desolation he saw in their faces.
Pop these links into your browser to check out his work