The hyper-real sculpture of Duane Hanson
If not for the title of this blog, you might be asking yourself "Who are those confused tourists?" In fact, they're made not from flab and polyester -- as real tourists are -- but from fiberglass and epoxy. They're a 1988 work called "Tourists II" by Duane Hanson, probably the foremost hyper-real sculpture artist in the world. By taking direct body molds of real people and then meticulously creating three-dimensional casts from synthetic resins, Hanson is able to fool the eye -- often in person, as well as in photographs of his work.
It's far from a simple process, however. Each figure is cast in several sections before being joined together, and then painted in careful detail. Props, clothing and hair are selected. The entire process often took more than a year per sculpture. Some of his works are made from material durable enough to survive outdoors for long periods, like his sculpture "Man Riding Lawnmower," below:
Hanson died after a long battle with cancer in 1996, but the hyper-realness of his work has yet to be surpassed. Here's a nice explication of the sentiment behind his work, from a USA Today article (of all things):
In 1973, Hanson moved from New York City to Florida, where he focused on representing what he considered the familiar and ordinary Americans, such as tourists, shoppers, and sunbathers. Like the Pop artists of the 1960s, he was interested in depicting the commonplace in uncommon ways. Although his realism sometimes was unflattering or even brutal, his stated intention was to ennoble his subjects by turning them into art. Despite his apparent shift away from politically engaged themes, the emotionalism of these earlier works remained, depicting quiet suffering, melancholic introspection, or resignation of these people. Hanson's "slice-of-life" figures and their ordinary activities are frozen forever in their poses and actions. Perhaps the ultimate paradox of Hanson's realism is that his lifelike figures seem incapable of escaping their situations. In the end, the courage with which they seem to endure this fate expresses the dignity and nobility that Hanson found in the common American.
To see larger versions of these works, click here.