An authentic creative voice
By Lele Galer, Columnist, The Times
This week’s local art watch focuses on brightly colored neo-impressionist work of local popular artist John Hannafin. John grew up in West Chester in a bucolic setting of a centuries old stone home surrounded by green farmlands and historic properties.
While he may be most nationally famous for his “Art Across America” series where he travelled across the country painting and documenting his artistic experience, locally John is renowned for his interpretations of local West Chester buildings and panoramic views of the West Chester downtown. Very few artists have mastered a signature style at such a young age, but when you see one of his paintings, you know immediately that it is by John Hannafin. He writes that he “seeks to follow his heart and make meaningful, original and authentic creations that uplift, soothe and inspire others.” “Authenticity” is a word that he frequently uses as a description and a goal for his art. In this Art Watch, we will talk about what it means to be an authentic artist, and certainly John Hannafin has accomplished this goal.
Though he majored in economics and didn’t think it was truly possible to be a professional artist, he decided to learn painting and pursue his passion full time after working in a cubicle, selling cubicles. While creating an art publishing business representing other artists, he developed his own personal style and eventually focused whole heartedly on his own art.
If you have never been to Roots Café in West Chester, I hardily recommend that you go there – not just for the incredibly delicious and healthy food (I wish I could eat there every day! That should be on my new year’s resolution list) but also for the visual delight that is painting upon painting of work by John Hannafin. Like the cuisine, it is passionately local and it feels personal, like it was made just for you. It is a perfect fit. John paints expressionistically, from the heart. While some of his subject matter can be a bit obvious, like a field of sunflowers, a still life of fruit, you can see what he is going for in every stroke. Like Van Gogh, the painter he most admires, his interpretation of a scene strives to emulate and express the spirit and energy in every living thing. When I asked his what was it that he saw in Van Gogh, he said, he was inspired by him ” because of the color and energetic rhythms in his work, his deep and sensitive humanity, and his perseverance to create a completely unique style.”
In my opinion, John is most successful in his renderings of structures. His building paintings, like “The Horace Pippin House” and “George Washington’s Quarters”, are angled in a quirky fashion that makes the building come alive and fall in rhythm with the landscape in which they are placed. His paintings are full of joy and music and a completely authentic vision that is very hard to master. In his best works you can feel his intense desire to discover and portray a fresh, personal take in looking at our local Chester County spots.
Recently, John spent two months in Iceland, and he will be displaying some of these works as well as other new local paintings this Thursday at Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery from 5-9pm. Trying to capture the awe-inspiring immensity of Icelandic mountains is a bit overwhelming a task for any artist.
The only painters that I have seen that touch on this grand scale of natural beauty are artists like German favorite Casper Friedrich or maybe American genius Albert Bierstadt. I am looking forward to seeing what John painted from his experience, and honestly I am looking forward even more to what I know will be a delight for the eyes – his new canvases of images of our own gorgeous Chester County. He will be exhibiting his new painting “Super Moon Over Mary Cassatt House” which is just a thrill. There is an almost childlike wonder to John’s paintings – which is again that desire for authenticity, from the heart – that makes us glad to live here in this area. No wonder one of John’s panorama paintings of West Chester sits proudly in our City Hall!
Recently John Hannafin made the big leap from small home studio to a downtown West Chester studio. A very brave move that has proved to be a very successful one as well. He says that “Having a studio in downtown West Chester has worked out great for both hosting shows here and ease in painting around town. Being surrounded by a hard-working and creative community definitely helps in driving my creativity and vision.”
The best place to see John’s artwork is at this new studio at 19 South Church Street in downtown West Chester. No matter how big his paintings get or how famous he gets, he is always humble, always kind, and always striving for authenticity.
To see John Hannafin’s work, check out Root’s Café, The Radley Run Art Show March 7th and 8th, the Chadds Ford Art Show March 21 and 22, and, of course, this Thursday at Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery from 5-9pm located at 700 Folly Hill Road in Kennett Square. Galer Estate Pop Up shows on Thursdays benefit the Chester County Art Associations new Building Fund – so all good: art, music, food and award winning wine all for a great cause!
Local Art Watch highights one local artist every week. Lele Galer is an artist who has chaired numerous art shows, taught art history and studio art, public art and has chaired, written and taught the Art in Action Art Appreciation series for the UCFD schools for the past 12 years. She worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and wrote for the Asociated Press in Rome. She has been dedicated to Art History and art education for most of her adult life. Lele and her husband Brad own Galer Estate Winery in Kennett Square and she is President of the Education Foundation and co-Chairs the CCAA’s New Building Campaign.