Portland State student Megan Hanley, who graduates with an MFA in Art Practice in June, has been awarded the $10,000 Andries Deinum Prize for Visionaries and Provocateurs from the PSU College of the Arts. She will use the prize money to undertake an ambitious drawing project in collaboration with the Center for Life in Extreme Environments at PSU. Hanley will join scientists in the field, conducting research on organisms that live in extreme environments and creating a body of artwork that urges community engagement with art, philosophy, and science.
Working with PSU Biology professor Dr. Annie Lindgren, Hanley will travel to hot springs and deserts to collect samples of three different forms of extremophiles. She’ll study bacteria that live in hot springs, mosses that live beside hydrothermal pools, and fish that live in temporary pools in the desert, hatching from dried eggs in the dirt after a rainstorm.
Based on this research, Hanley plans to create a series of charcoal drawings, making visible the unseen ecosystems in which these organisms thrive. She says, “Art has the ability to bridge the gap between hard science and human experience. I am interested in how I can use scale and the medium of drawing to relate an invisible biological community to the viewer’s own body to alter one’s sense of space.”
Hanley is the second recipient of the Andries Deinum Prize for Visionaries and Provocateurs, the largest cash award in the PSU College of the Arts. The prize is given to a student who is committed to expanding public dialogue via creative artistic expression, original research or an innovative project highlighting the role and value of art in the 21st Century. The prize is named for the late film educator and PSU professor Andries Deinum (1918-1995), who transformed Portland’s cultural and intellectual landscape through his innovative use of film in education. The prize was established with gifts from devoted former students, colleagues and others inspired by Deinum’s humanist values.
The selection committee was impressed by Hanley’s artistic engagement with broad social and scientific issues including climate change and scientific literacy. “Megan’s project emphasizes human connection to the natural world through exquisite artistic detail,” says Sue Taylor, Ph.D., the interim dean of the College of the Arts. “Andries Deinum believed in art with a purpose, using his filmmaking to ignite community conversations around the important issues of his day,” Taylor says. “By bridging scientific and artistic forms to explore the impact of humans on the environment, Hanley is continuing Deinum’s legacy in Portland.”
Hanley has prior experience creating art based on scientific research: for her graduate thesis project, she participated in an archeological excavation of an ancient Roman necropolis in Spain, funded by the Mary Ausplund Tooze Scholar Travel Award. After three weeks of meticulous excavation in the hot sun, Hanley created a series of life-size charcoal drawings of the graves, with detailed renderings of plants that had grown over the disturbed earth emphasizing the connection between decay and regrowth.
Dr. Lindgren, the Biology professor, says that Hanley “has an ability to interpret the connections between humans and the natural world that is very distinct from how scientists perceive these same connections; her ability to appreciate and question our science pushes us to think about novel approaches to our research.”
Author: Suzanne Gray, College of the Arts
May 31, 2017
Monday, May 15 – Thursday, May 25, 2017
Opening Reception: Wednesday, May 17, 5 – 7 p.m.
Artist Talk: Wednesday, May 24, 6 p.m.
Necropolis 6: Grave 1, 2017
Ink, ash, charcoal on paper
95” x 55”
Portland State University
724 SW Harrison St. #205
Portland, OR 97201
Open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The School of Art + Design at Portland State University is pleased to present Eternal Becoming, an exhibition by Megan Hanley that investigates humanity’s connection to the larger ecosystem through the ritual and biological processes of death. As a research-based artist working in drawing, Hanley builds up layers of charcoal to obscure and heighten the illusion of depth in a series of life-size drawings of tombs filled with plants. When confronted with the scale and orientation of seeing the graves on the wall instead of on the ground the drawings elicit a visceral reaction in which the viewer relates their own body to the looming grave.
In the summer of 2016, Hanley received the Mary Ausplund Tooze Scholar Travel Award to participate in a three-week dig with the Sanisera Archaeology Institute in Menorca, Spain. While excavating a necropolis of approximately 1500-year-old Roman graves, Hanley worked lying on hard stone with her arm deep in a tomb. Caked in dirt and microscopic bone dust, she experienced a feeling of close connection to the land and the ancient people she was uncovering. Back in the studio, she created drawings from an aerial perspective using ink, ash, dirt from the dig, and charcoal of the graves in which plants began to take over the disturbed earth post-excavation. Similar to the archaeological dig, her whole body is part of the process; lying on the ground she excavates the drawings by erasing layers of charcoal and brushing away dust.
Hanley is interested in the ways in which humans have interacted with the land throughout history, specifically in acts of continual entombment and upheaval that mirror biological and geologic processes. The drawings of the graves that Hanley created highlight the florae with a draughtsman’s attention to detail to emphasize the role of humans as part of a greater ecosystem that through death allow the body to transition from one that consumes to one that provides nourishment.
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Megan Hanley (b. 1986 Hartford, CT) is an artist who lives and works in Portland, Oregon. She creates art to continue a dialogue around the theory of posthumanism and the physical processes of biology and geology. By creating drawings utilizing natural materials from sites of investigation she urges us to consider that humans are part of a complex ecosystem, equal to bacteria, minerals, plants, and animals. In the summer of 2016, Hanley took part in a backpacking residency with Signal Fire in the Siskiyou Mountain region of Northern California, and a three-week dig with the Sanisera Archaeology Institute on the island of Menorca, Spain. Her work has been selected for juried exhibitions at Gallery 263 in Cambridge, MA, the Nightingale Gallery at Eastern Oregon University, La Grande, OR and the Littman Gallery at Portland State University, Portland, OR. Hanley received a BFA in Art Education from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2008 and will receive an MFA in Contemporary Art Practice from Portland State University in 2017.
Eternal Becoming by Megan Hanley is presented as part of the MFA Season 2017 for Portland State University’s Master of Fine Art in Contemporary Art Practice: Studio program. Detailed information about individual exhibitors, gallery hours and events please visit http://psumfastudio.org. The exhibitions and presentations are free and open to the public.