This month's Spotlight is on animation/drawing/painting/multimedia installation artist Hanan Harchol. I first discovered Hanan's work several years ago as an undergrad. I was a squirrely little Visual Arts major attempting to balance a substantive social life, my first romantic relationship, and a full class schedule.
Hanan Harchol tells stories. His semi-autobiographical body of work has been exhibited all around the country, and his film work has been screened at film festivals around the world. Harchol uses personal family narratives to address significant introspective themes.
I was most impressed by his short films and animations. My favorite of these is titled "The Nuclear Physicist Sings to the Seventies," and involves a discussion between The Nuclear Physicist, Harchol's character based directly on his father, and his wife about his ideas for starting up a new company. The two ride along in their car, their son in the backseat, as they playfully banter/argue. The scene nears its end when "Saturday Night" by The Bay City Rollers pops on the car radio. The Nuclear Physicist starts to sing along clumsily. After a moment, the other two start nodding their heads subtly to the music. It's a sweet little scene undoubtedly drawn from the memories of the animator, made all the more affecting with the knowledge that his parents would eventually divorce.
His artwork is reflective, deeply personal, and always thought-provoking.
As a student I spent several years focused on similar-themed artwork/storytelling, including an animated short film I called Fulfillment. Although the project impressed my professor and fellow classmates, the nature of what it involved, an exploration of alienation and what could incite a teenager's suicide, made it extremely difficult to view with an audience and discuss in-depth; not to mention a significant part of me was still dealing with my own particular gloomy issues. I worried that the work was too "confessional" and self-absorbed. I started questioning whether what I was doing was valid or not, and if it was, would I be able to take pride in it? With these concerns in mind, I sent Mr. Harchol a message on the off-chance that he might write back. To my surprise, he did exactly that. Hanan took the time to check out my work and offer some insightful and encouraging words.
George Bernard Shaw once said "The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and all time." I believe Hanan's work is a shining example of this. His work reminds us that intimate storytelling is a shared exploration; the art resonates because it is so deeply personal and innately human. Narrative work such as this talks about relationships, life philosophies, and the personal concerns that we all experience in some form or another.
Of course an artist or storyteller needs to find his own path. Are you willing to keep at it and spill your heart to an audience time after time? What does that do to one's psyche? What is the personal gain? Can you stay honest? Can you support this calling? But I digress.
The lesson I learned from Mr. Harchol was go ahead and take pride in the work. Experiment, be willing to embarrass yourself; find your unique voice and see where it takes you. The honest, humbling process is cathartic for not only the artist, but also the right audience. Of course, it helps if the work itself is entertaining (always hook 'em with some cleverness).
Check out his stuff.
Oh, and he supports this passion through his work as a professional guitarist. Truly a renaissance man.