Yamhills Gallery show features well-traveled painter now living in St. Paul

St. Paul painter James Hanlon says his artwork is about creating an image that is near lifelike, but always contains a hint of the mystical.

Hanlon, whose work will be featured in an exhibit at Yamhills Gallery this weekend, described his style of art as “photorealism,” or “transcendental idealism.”

“It means it’s super realistic,” he said. “It looks like a postcard, but it’s not — it’s a painting. But there’s always something undiscovered in it. It’s realism but then I add things that kind of don’t belong there to juxtapose the image.”SUBMITTED - Postcard perfect - St. Paul artist James Hanlon will display more than a dozen paintings, mostly acrylic, at Newberg's Yamhills Gallery during a show this weekend. Hanlon calls his style of artwork ‘photorealism.'

For example, one of his paintings titled “Fete” depicts a fireplace with a vase on top and a masquerade-style mask on the mantel. It appears photo-like with the exception of a small rainbow projected onto the wall that seems out of place, until the viewer notices a crystal hanging from the mantel that is catching the sun and splaying the rays on the wall.

In another painting of a birch tree, a chickadee perched on a limb almost blends into the branches and could be missed by the inattentive viewer.

“There’s secrets in my paintings,” Hanlon explained.

While his show in Newberg primarily features his acrylic artwork, Hanlon has worked in just about every medium during his long association with art, notably oils and gouache. Now 71, Hanlon recalled his earliest memory of making artwork as a child.

“I was 7 years old and I drew a maple leaf,” he said.

Throughout his school years he continued to draw, but his path was solidified when he was 28 and was told by his teacher in front of an audience of more than 1,000 people, “Jimmy, you’re an artist.”

Hanlon’s professional career in art began in New York City when he was hired by Harper’s Magazine art director Sheila Berger.

“She was the first one that got me started in this business,” he said. “I’ll never forget her.”

He went on to work all over the city, illustrating for numerous publications before later beginning as a university-level instructor in Fort Lauterdale in his 30s. The irony? He had completed but one year of college himself.

For more than 40 years, Hanlon was the senior illustrator for the Arica Institute, which he described as a “school of knowledge” that was founded in New York City in 1971 by Bolivian philosopher Oscar Ichazo.

Hanlon, a Vietnam veteran, traveled the world over, visiting and living in more than 200 places as varied as France, Africa, New Jersey and Morocco. Until recently he lived in Maui, Hawaii, before another move brought him to Oregon — after all his travels and numerous living locales, Hanlon has settled in St. Paul.

“I have a beautiful house on an acre of property,” he said. “I don’t want to move anymore.”

The local culture even lent itself to one of his paintings, “St. Paul Cowboys,” inspired, of course, by the St. Paul Rodeo.

While he spends much of his creative energy on creating visual artwork, he also muses on creativity and the artistic process in a wider sense.

“Creativity is a divine energy, really,” Hanlon said. “Everyone has it. If you’re washing dishes, how you put them away is creative.”

Most of all, the “art” exists in the process of creating it, he said, and once it’s created “it’s outside of me and it’s not art anymore.” But then another form of art is created when the art is viewed, as the viewer is drawn into a unity with the artist.

“I’m something of a philosopher too, you see,” Hanlon said.

The gallery show will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Yamhills Gallery, 901 N. Brutscher St.

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