Gaylen Hansen (American, born 1921)
Red Dog and Kernal, 1981
Oil on canvas
72 x 96 inches
Courtesy of Linda Hodges Gallery, Seattle
Gaylen Hansen is the Kernal, a self-invented symbol of the American West. Raised on a Utah ranch, he came to excel at contemporary art. His West is a place where cowboys coexist with Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, where playful images of a red wolf-dog mimic Henri Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy, 1897, while addressing ecological issues like the reintroduction of the gray wolf. Hansen’s work embraces California Funk and early modernism with compositions that result in canvases of painterly celebration, inspired by Milton Avery and Marsden Hartley. Wolves, magpies, leaping trout, giant grasshoppers, and the Kernal interact with “Big Nature,” becoming heroic icons of the American West. The ambitious, 72 x 96 inch Red Dog and Kernal, 1981, dates from the apex of Hansen’s sixty-year-long career.
Born in Garland, Utah, Hansen received an MFA from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and taught at Washington State University for 25 years, retiring in 1982. He has exhibited in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Berlin, Singapore, and Beijing, with 40-plus solo exhibitions. His paintings are in numerous public and private collections, including Boise Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, and Honolulu Academy of Art. Hansen has received prestigious awards, including the Washington State Governors Award and Flintridge Foundation Award for Visual Artists. His major retrospective, Gaylen Hansen: Three Decades of Paintings, was shown in 2007–08 at four venues around the West and the Seattle Art Museum. This signally important artist clearly deserves a place in the Portland Art Museum’s collection.