The Fussy Eye: Gone to the Dogs

Still actively painting at 92, it seems like Gaylen Hansen has been around forever. Based in eastern Washington, given a 30-year retrospective at SAM six years back, and widely collected, he’s a guy whose productivity and familiarity can paradoxically work against him. Like clockwork, he has an annual show at Linda Hodges, and many of his new canvasses haven’t even been framed yet. It’s like he just put down the brush that morning, then packed up the car and drove over the pass to show us what he’s done. The creative cycle continues; there’s a stubborn tenacity to it, like the sun coming up over the Palouse, where Hansen settled in the ’50s to teach at WSU. He was born in Utah, and he’s certainly a Westerner who puts horsemen and frontier themes into some of his work. But he’s no Remington-style cowboy artist; dogs and horses and birds often figure in his paintings because they share the same Western environment. I often categorize artists as indoor or outdoor, depending where they seem most comfortable and where they generally depict their subjects. Hansen is in the latter camp, with a kind of sophisticated-yet-rustic use of color and line that shows a special affinity for critters. There are many dogs in this show, and I love the way he captures their sideways, skittering insouciance, their nonchalant, herky-jerky energy that can abruptly collapse into a shady nap in the dust. Hansen conveys the essential canine form—and that of other creatures—in a way that reminds you of cave paintings. Those Paleolithic artists had more of an equivalence with animals; there were no notions of domesticated or wild, of our dominion over nature. Hansen’s dogs are on a more friendly footing with us now, but he grants them an ancient dignity, a freedom never quite surrendered. Linda Hodges Gallery, 316 First Ave. S., 624-3034, Free. 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat. Ends Nov. 30.

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