By: Gail Obenreder
“My love for the harmony of nature and the essence of wild birds in their natural habitat is revealed through abstract sculpture and oil painting.”
After a four-decade career as a senior art and design director in marketing and advertising, t. a. hahn has returned full-time to his lifelong passion – creating fine art. An alumnus of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, hahn studied both fine arts and graphic design and chose design as a career path. He always “enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of design” – and still does – but his renewed studio practice has led to the work that garnered a Division Fellowship.
Titled Peace Taking Flight, the artist has created a series that has “taken flight.” The collection was first inspired by a single bird, “a cedar waxing that visits the trees just outside our windows for only a few weeks each summer.” Each of hahn’s avian-inspired pieces – whether small or large – combines wood (some found, some sourced, some rustic, some refined) and oil painting (generally on gesso board), often elevated by subtle LED lighting.
Early in the series, hahn used live-edge slabs, but he has recently introduced driftwood and is also exploring salvage from a 200-year-old building near his Middletown home. Born in Mississippi, the artist grew up in a family of six (parents and three siblings) in South Jersey, where he continued to live and work for much of his career. Five years ago, hahn and his wife (photographer Barb Scalzi) moved to Delaware, a locale from which he can readily source his wood statewide or on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay shores.
Not surprisingly, hahn was influenced early on by Jasper Johns (“a graphic designer in his early years!”) and major American modernists like Alexander Calder and Mark Rothko. He also studies the works of contemporary sculptors, realist and abstract. Working in abstraction himself, hahn notes that “abstract art can be difficult for the general public,” but he believes they need to know only two things – whether they like or dislike it and that they don’t have to understand or explain their reaction, having “simply the freedom to enjoy (or not) what they are viewing.”
The artist has affiliations with the Delaware Contemporary, Philadelphia Sculptors, Noyes Museum (at New Jersey’s Stockton University), the International Sculpture Center, and the Gilbert W. Perry, Jr. Center for the Arts (aka “The Gibby”) in his hometown. His works have been widely exhibited (locally, regionally, and nationally) in over 60 solo and group shows at scores of venues, including Philadelphia Sculptors and Grounds for Sculpture (in New Jersey).
He constantly explores “the harmony of nature and the essence of the wild birds” to inform and inspire his works – finding driftwood, visiting mills, and researching avian color and beauty. His art “has always generated a sense of peace for me,” and hahn is rewarded when he completes a satisfying piece. “Icing on the cake is when others enjoy your work.”
Hahn’s most recent exhibition was at The Gibby, a joint show with Scalzi that was scheduled for 2020 but that – due to COVID strictures – had to be postponed until June 2021. Sharing art was difficult during the pandemic, and hahn notes that “just going out for supplies was concerning.” But he is “honored and grateful” for the Fellowship, hoping that it will “help me expand and elevate opportunities to exhibit, in turn allowing me to create and produce more work.”
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