Van de Weghe Fine Art is pleased to present Queenie II, 1988, by Duane Hanson (1925-1996). Hanson began making hyper-realistic figurative sculptures in the 1960s. Cast from life from his family, friends and neighbors, dressed in second-hand clothing, and accessorized with found objects, Hanson’s sculptures were a radical return to figuration in the wake of recent abstraction. Among the first artists to work in this style, he is frequently associated with Pop Art as well as with with Photorealism. Hanson pushed the boundaries of contemporary art with his focus on the harsh realities of American life, exploring socio-politically charged subject matter in his work early on. Hanson’s focus after 1970 shifted to ordinary people living unremarkable lives, people that one would otherwise pass by practically without notice. “My work deals with people who lead lives of quiet desperation,” he explained.
We know her name is Queenie by her nametag. A large woman with a diminutive name, she stands in moment of weary reflection wearing an aqua janitress uniform, hand atop a rolling trashcan stocked with cleaning supplies. Her job is to clean up the mess made by the rest of us, day after day, a burden that is pronounced by the heaviness of her body. With his meticulous attention to detail, and by posing his subject in stasis, Hanson gives us the unusual privilege to stare in a way that is not permitted in our daily interactions with others; we alternate between detachment from and identification with her.
Hanson’s subjects attract us precisely because of their everyday-ness. His work highlights the discrepancy between the American dream and its reality and obliges us to regard his subjects empathically. As such, we are able to see in them a reflection of ourselves, which is more important now than ever.