On October 12, 2017, one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away. I met Curt Hanson in 4th grade, through a mutual friend, Bruce Redding. We remained friends throughout most of our lives, with an occasional feud of the sort that only friends can have.
Much of our friendship was based on a mix of childhood memories and an ongoing interest in the art of painting. During our formative years we both attended classes at Fort Wright College, California College of Arts & Crafts, and we both spent time studying in New York and Boston. Curt eventually relocated to Connecticut where he developed his career as a pleinairista, and explored the beautiful landscape of the Connecticut green belt. We had shared houses in Spokane and in Albany CA. We lived in the same building, Fenway Studios, in Boston. In so many ways we were joined at the hip, exploring Surrealist imagery (and history) in our early years, and pursuing interests in landscape, plein air, 19th century academic painting etc., throughout our lives.
Curt in later years spent a lot of time traveling in Thailand and beyond. He met and married Onwarin Yupandung there. Onwarin had an incredible balancing effect on Curt, tempering his obsession with his art with a focus on more practical matters. At least from my perspective, they had a complementary relationship that most people would envy. Curt more than once admitted to me that On had a much better business sense than he did.
I have so many memories, many of them playing randomly in my mind now, as I come to terms with the finality of his passing; pranks that we played as children, conversations, even LSD trips that we took together. The most recent contact I had was a phone call a few weeks ago, when Curt was coming to terms with his illness. Although we spoke frequently on the phone, my last real visit was in the summer of 2016, when I was back east attending a karate event. I spent three days enjoying Curt’s and On’s hospitality at Cornubia Hall where they lived. It was one long conversation about art, mostly. Curt was a dedicated and prolific painter, but it was never by habit, or with a mechanical and repetitive gesture. He was always trying to see what was fresh in his subject and in his painting. It was always with the intention of capturing and representing the spark of life. That was primarily what Curt wanted to talk about.
At the time of his passing, Curt was enjoying a widening regional reputation that resulted in some substantial financial success. His work had recently been exhibited at the Guild of Boston Artists, and had found favor in many galleries on the East Coast. Through facebook he had gained broad respect amongst his peers. He still maintained friendships with the circle of artists that had formed during his early years in Spokane and in Boston. These included childhood friend Rick Graff, W. Stanley Taft Jr., Tom Holt, Val Pate, William Dubin and myself. Other old, close friends that will miss him dearly include Bruce Redding and Lou Lowery. This list must necessarily include many people that I don’t know and have never met, as well as those friends that were a part of the Yoga practice that Curt was involved in during his last decades. Most importantly it includes his family, his wife Onwarin, his son Inness James Hanson, his sister Kay Sneva, his brother Allen, and his mother Jean. Within all of these people, Curt’s death leaves a hole that can never be adequately filled. Perhaps over time it can at least be papered over with the rich memories that he left behind.
Curt was the sort of person that made easy friendships. However, he can best be known through the many paintings that were his life’s work. That is where his mind dwelled, and it’s a legacy that will live long after his passing. It is that legacy which will be finding friends far into the future.