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Dennis Hare (2011)
Oil on board, 8 x 8 feet
California figurative artist Dennis Hare was born in Glendale, California, in 1946. His mother, Arline, was an interior designer. His father, Fred Hare, was a sports writer and photographer. Dennis grew up in a fertile artistic environment. His grandfather, Oliver Hare, was an artist, musician and photographer. His grandmother on his mother’s side, Elizabeth Harlan, was also an artist. Dennis Hare’s parents traveled a great deal when he was young. His family traveled to Central America and Mexico to make short documentary cultural films. A small beach house in Mexico was a regular retreat for the family. There, Dennis Hare spent a lot of time painting. Later in life he lived in Mexico for some time.
These early influences are visible in Dennis Hare’s paintings. Shown by the strong sense of color and light found in equatorial countries. Dennis Hare showed artistic potential from a young age but initially rejected it as a career path. Instead he chose to focus on sporting achievements. Skilled at both basketball, baseball, and beach volleyball, he played for various leagues. During his teenage years he lived in Yucaipa. There his mother lovingly labored over the restoration of the “Adobe House”, a local historic landmark. After high school, Dennis Hare went on to San Bernardino Valley College. He then attended San Diego State University where he studied physical education.
The life of Dennis Hare is one of travel and discovery. In the 1980’s he spent a lot of time in Mexico. There he immersed himself in his artwork and developing his skills and techniques. After a lengthy stay, he decided to travel to Europe and study the Masters, especially Van Gogh in Amsterdam. But it’s the depictions of cultures, especially Mexican, that make up much of his best known work.
Dennis Hare’s sporting achievements are considerable. He won his first Volleyball World Championship in 1975 and many other beach volleyball competitions plus Senior Olympic tournaments. In recognition, he was inducted in 2008 to the California Beach Volleyball Association Hall of Fame. During his athletic career, art featured little and it was not until his retirement from sports that he took up painting. This was partly due to his need to illustrate a book he was writing on beach volleyball. In 1979, Dennis Hare began painting in watercolors. He discovered an aptitude that spurred him to create many artworks and join the National Watercolor Society. His work was mainly figurative, as it remained for the rest of his career.
His adoption of oils in 1987 led to his most famous paintings. Artwork with the energy, textures and colors only achievable with this medium. Oil painting provided the perfect means to capture the distinctive light and movement of his style. Some oil paintings by Dennis Hare are bold, brash and painted very quickly. Others are more detailed, though always with an expressionist note and a strong humanist sense.
Children are often the subjects of Dennis Hare’s artwork. He is known for capturing the ephemeral character and energy of his young subjects. Other characters include neighbors, people encountered in the street and those at work or play. The beach is a recurring theme for Dennis. A result of his early life and travels, as well as his love of beach volleyball. Even when not painting the beach, there are often elements of sea and sand-like colors and textures in his paintings. This energy of transitory space is drawn from and translated into his other artworks.
The artwork of Dennis Hare can veer into abstraction. Especially in his later works as he pushed the boundaries of figure and character. As he explored his artistic talents, his work began to take on elements of mixed media and assemblage. This was largely, as he says, due to the Eva Hess exhibition he saw in New York in 1992. Hare took the works of Hess and started to incorporate the use of objects in his art with a 2007 piece, Couple. This work showed two people depicted in oils and scraps of paper. This new direction is distinctly Dennis Hare. It contains the characteristic brightness, intimacy and sense of relationship that is very much his.
Living in California, Dennis Hare was influenced by the Bay Area Figurative Movement. He exhibited with artists like Elmer Bischoff, Manuel Neri, Nathan Oliveira and David Park. His artwork can be characterized as social interpretation and observation. Very often the figures in his paintings are touching each other, conversing, seeing the same things, playing together. Rarely does Dennis Hare paint a person alone, though his portraits are sublime and of definite note.
Still active, Dennis Hare lectures and gives workshops around the world. His lectures often focus on the ideas of self-expression and how to maximize artistic potential. He lives in Mentone, CA, in a comfortable bungalow he has very much customized to his tastes and needs. Besides being a successful artist, Dennis Hare is also a collector and has often donated artwork to good causes. Dennis has exhibited in private and public exhibitions. He is evidence that being a self-taught artist and late bloomer matter little when talent and passion are on show.
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