This is Harry Hansen’s story. Because he can no longer tell
it himself, I will present my version of his long history in the teaching field,
and as an accomplished artist.
Dee Hansen, Harry’s wife & best friend
Harry Hansen taught at the University of South Carolina for 33 years, from
1970 to 2003. He worked his way up to Professor of Art and Associate Head of
the Art Department. USC was his life, where he loved teaching students about
the basics of art. He also taught Encaustic Painting and Watercolor, two fields
in which he excelled. Many of his students have gone on to successful careers
in diverse fields of art: art teachers, painters, graphic designers, and even
an award winning editorial cartoonist.
Please follow Harry's Story athttps://www.facebook.com/ImmutablePassion
The Immutable Passion Project is an awareness campaign to tell the story of artist Harry Hansen aimed to inspire creativity and person-centered dementia care.
Harry’s own artwork is in public and private collections throughout the southeast.
His paintings, shown nationally and regionally, have won numerous awards. He
often traveled around the state to teach painting workshops and to jury art exhibits
for South Carolina’s many art groups. In 2006 McKissick Museum, USC, hosted a
retrospective exhibition, The Essence of Nature: Works by Harry Hansen. Comments
collected during the exhibition, especially from former students, are heartwarming
in their regard to Harry as a teacher and as a person who cared for each student’s
Harry's New Drawings
Dog from Harry's memory. (2009 or 2010)
Harry's cat Mesha
Two buildings, with smoking chimneys and lightning rods. (9/2009)
Tennis match? (6/2011)
A colorful landscape (11/2008)
An early design, beginning to take a landscape form. (6/2008)
Landscape in green
Complex design in 4 colors (2009)
Design in orange & green (2009)
In Harry’s late 50’s he began showing signs of confusion and stopped making
any art. No one knew what was happening to him, as he went from doctor to doctor.
He began to withdraw from friends and stopped playing squash, a sport he’d played
and enjoyed for years. Finally an official diagnosis of Vascular Dementia, akin
to Alzheimer’s Disease, was given in 2005, when he was 63. Harry continued to
sink more and more into his own world, which became smaller and smaller. That
he doesn’t know what is wrong with him, is the blessing of his disease. The difficulty
has been for family and friends to watch him slowly slip away. He now lives in
the moment and is content. Amazingly, Harry still recognizes his own artworks
and still enjoys the activity of drawing.
For many years he was not able to make any artworks; whether he was afraid
to try, or because of his shaking hands, I am not sure. In 2008, after months
of trying to prod him into doing drawings again, Harry broke through to where
he’d stored all the basic elements of art. By this time, having apparently lost
his fears and inhibitions, he began anew, like a child with fresh eyes, to make
works of art. They were different, often child-like drawings, but to us they
were beautiful. He began with relish and strength, making marks upon page after
page of his new sketchbooks. He’d overlay colors and create wonderful, purely
abstract color fields. Then one day he began digging back into his memory for
the elements of design that he had taught for so many years. The works now took
on landscape qualities, with perspective, value, and subject matter. Some had
strange shapes, or surprising color choices, and were really quite striking.
During the time between 2008 and 2010, Harry reinvented his drawings skills.
He liked to do portraits of people, if the subject was willing to sit for him.
Although these are often not a true likeness, or even flattering, there is the
definite “essence” of each sitter, which must have come from Harry’s stored knowledge
of facial features. All of these drawings and paintings show a wealth of learned
and accessible knowledge still existing in his diseased brain. The drawings comprise
a personal picture of his disease, enabling others to understand dementia and
learn from his point of view.
We all miss Harry’s former abilities, jovial presence,
and interaction with those around him. We are celebrating who he was with this
new web site and are offering for sale “giclée” fine art prints of some
of his favorite