Mike Hannon, 65, went to art school at Long Beach State College in the 1970s studying jewelry, metalsmithing and business. After a couple of years making jewelry, he took a job at Toyota as a model maker, working there for 25 years.
In 2003 Hannon and his wife, Leslie, moved to Arroyo Grande, bought land in the eastern hills and built a workshop, a house for Leslie’s mother, a house for themselves and a big modern barn. The building took a few years.
About four years ago, Hannon decided to get back into being a full-time artist. He began to play with some leftover copper from gutters a friend had given him.
“I was a frustrated artist at Toyota,” Hannon said. He had said to himself, “When I move up here I’d like to do sculpture,” something he hadn’t done before.
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Hannon found himself crafting small figure-like images from the donated metal. Each one looked more and more like a human. “I didn’t know I was gonna do figures when I started pounding on metal.”
To walk into his workshop currently and encounter his life-sized figures, one would think he’d been doing this for years. Hannon has invented a new sculptural style with newspapers and duct tape.
Initially he planned to start with wadding newspapers, wrapping duct tape around them, and then packing clay over the whole thing. But he liked the effect of the rawness of using just the newspapers and duct tape, sometimes leaving the papers leaking out of the tape.
The figures are all positioned in high action with arms and legs gesturing dynamically. He uses rebar (found in a metal yard) to wrap the papers and tape around.
Hannon is doing a series of nine figures, male and female, which will be displayed in an exhibit at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.
Some of the figures will be copper, some duct tape, and others a combination. It takes him about six weeks to complete a figure. A torso in the barn is made up of a copper patina in a repeated heating and pounding process with a torch (called annealing), which brings out multiple colors. It gives the effect of an ancient dug-up sculpture.
A trip to the barn reveals more of his figures and other sculptures he’s crafted, notably a large copper crow; an abstract bird out of copper, steel and wood; and my favorite, two gorgeous, giant egrets, which can be interpreted as either fighting or in a mating dance. There are also dancers.
After graduating from art school, Hannon owned a jewelry business for two years, making sterling silver and cutting and polishing stones. Then the disco era came. People were only into gold chains. His business died.
“I needed a profession,” he said. So he went to sheet metal and welding school. He welded in a L.A. shipyard before going to Toyota. Now as a full-time artist he emphasizes that “we (he and Leslie) take this very seriously.”
“Right now we just want to be artists” rather than be full time in a gallery and have to focus on sales.
Look for Hannon’s figures next January at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. He belongs to the Central Coast Sculptures Group.