Stephen Hannock

You can find artworks by Stephen Hannock in permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of America Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and many more prominent institutions and private collections. He continues making new work at his northern Berkshire studio.

In early August, 2020, David Lachman conducted the following interview with Stephen Hannock, and we are delighted to share it with you here.

What is the most exciting project you are working on now?

I’m currently working on 2 large vistas-with-text (large landscape compositions with diaristic text woven throughout the painting).

One is an aerial abstraction of the Cuyahoga River Valley outside of Cleveland.  The piece is dedicated to my first art teacher…. whose family still remains particularly close to us.  

It will be called Lake River Nocturne for Dan Hodermarsky and measures 64X96 inches, polished oil on canvas.

The next is a painting of Mount Katahdin in Maine.  The mountain has been painted by scores of painters … beginning with the likes of Frederick Church in the 19th century. 

I’ve been working on a composition for many years.  It’s now coming to fruition.  My work is derived from drawings I made from a bouncing bush plane.  The perspective is above the surrounding lakes…. but still below the summit.

This painting will be titled, Luminous Lakes Below the Knife Edge. It measures 48X72 inches, polished oil on canvas.

The Oxbow, Flooded, for Frank Moore and Dan Hodermarsky (Mass MoCA #196), 2013, Polished Mixed Media on Canvas, 48 x 72 inches, Collection of Yale Art Gallery

How is Covid affecting your art practice?

The pandemic has had a brutal impact on us all.  I’ve already lost a number of dear friends to the virus.  It’s just not fair.

On the professional side, last year I began a 3 year painting marathon, without a commitment to a specific exhibition.  So, when the pandemic hit, I was fortunate enough to not have to cancel any scheduled shows.  But as always during times of financial recession, the arts are the first and the hardest hit.

However, living in a culturally astute and well educated community has remarkable advantages over a packed urban jungle.  Of particular note is an overwhelming respect for science and the solutions that science can provide.  This is certainly not the case with all American communities.

A Recent History of Western Art in Western Massachusetts; Flooded River for Lane Faison (Mass MoCA #12), 2005, Polished Oil over Mixed Media on Canvas, 96 x 144 inches, Collection of the National Gallery of Art

As you say, North Berkshire County is a cultural center in a number of ways, but it is far from New York City.  How do you run your art business this far from NY?

Before I moved to New York in the early 1980s I was living in the Northampton/Amherst area in the Connecticut River Valley.  I thought the relentless train rides to the city were difficult.  Then, on one trip to town I went to see a show of Gregory Gillespie’s, a terrific painter and good friend from Northampton. 

As I was viewing the paintings, an older artist was showing his slides to Bella Fishko, Gregory’s dealer (Correct: We used 35mm slides in the ’70s).  On my way out I heard Bella say, “Your work is very strong.  However, we are not looking for new artists at this time.”  

This artist got into the elevator right behind me.  When the doors closed he turned to me and asked, “How can you possibly get a gallery’s attention  commuting from Minneapolis….?”

I never complained about a 2 hour train ride again.

Regarding the museum activity in our area, I’m involved in programs with all three museums as well as the Williamstown Art Conservation Center.  

Pamela Franks, in a stroke of genius by the college, was recently hired away from Yale to direct the Williams College Museum of Art. 

Then, at any point during a given week…. even during this pandemic… with a quick call we can duck in to visit a James Turrell installation at MASS MoCA…. or swing by The Clark to visit Rockets and Blue Lights  (a favorite Turner of mine)  as well as the Inness pictures given by Frank Martucci to the museum. 

(True story:  15+ years ago I used to complain to Frank that he owned too many paintings by George Inness.  If he were to give me just one…. he would never know the difference.  Low and behold…. the man has essentially given them all to me.  To this day they hang “in our backyard” where they can be visited at a drop of the hat.  Thank you Frank and Katherine….)

You were the pioneer of glow-in-the-dark blacklight painting early in your career, even getting a news feature on MTV in 1990 produced by Buddy Squires of Florentine Films fame.  Where do you see the future of phosphorescent painting in your work?

Funny you bring that up.  I was a visiting artist at Williams in the early 1980’s, just before I moved to New York.   The paintings that Tom Krens showed were the phosphorescent murals.  The medium is exciting.  But the tech…. the clunky blacklight tubes and fixtures really cut into the presentation.  Just recently, we’ve been looking over the new LED technology.  It has exciting possibilities.  We are setting up a phosphorescent studio as we speak.

I’ll let you know when there is something to look at.

Follow Stephen on Instagram.

Stephen Hannock’s version of Rockets and Blue Lights, 1989, Polished Oil on Canvas, 20 x 12 inches, Collection of the artist

David Lachman, who asked these great questions of Stephen Hannock, is also an artist, formerly based in the Chicago area.  He studied art at Oberlin College and Northwestern University. He moved to North Berkshire County in 2002 after hearing about MASS MoCA from friends who visited the area in 2001.  

northern Berkshires