Haley Hasler Profile in Professional Artist Magazine
The Many Faces of Haley Hasler
Haley Hasler’s painstakingly rendered self-portraits often depict her balanced at the precipice of chaos. For many women, these scenes of frenetic domestic life may be exaggerated, but they are also familiar. Hasler’s paintings offer a knowing look into womanhood and modern feminity through narratives and metaphors on identity. In choosing to explore these concepts through self-portraiture, Hasler tackles the same concerns about perception as other contemporary artists (photographer Cindy Sherman, for example) while embracing and exploring the traditions of academic painting.
After receiving her B.F.A. in painting from Indiana University, Hasler went on to pursue an M.F.A. at the School for the Arts at Boston University in 1999. It was during this time she began experimenting with self-representation.
“I began using myself in the mirror years ago as a student for economical reasons,” recalls Hasler. “Since then the self-portrait has evolved to become the essence of my work. I am able to ‘take off’ with the narrative when I am using my own mirror image … What I am truly interested in is a more conceptual notion of the ‘interior looking at the exterior.’ This is what the self-portrait embodies.”
Employing narrative and metaphor in her self-portraits allows the 39-year-old painter to explore several complex themes at once in her work: the conflict between observing an identity and creating one; describing an individual in the present age while embodying an archetype; and the nature of self-portraits as autobiographical, historical, literary, or imaginary experiences.
“I think of the entire painting as a self-portrait. I do not think of the female(s) represented as ‘me.’ The central female figure is the protagonist of the narrative. Certainly there is ambivalence in this character: about her role, her inner life, her situation, her identity, her effect on others. There are many aspects to her character, and she is seen differently by different outsiders.”
Hasler is consistently the central figure of the tableau but she will occasionally appear with a double. Often, she appears with members of her family. In many of her works, she paints herself as a wife and mother, juggling responsibilities, taking on multiple roles both mundane and mythical. As Hasler’s life has changed over the years, so has her characters and their circumstances.
“Because of the extreme demands on women’s appearance and the conflicting roles expected of women, the interior life becomes particularly fascinating, in a Shakespearean sense. There is the danger of identity as performance,” Hasler explains. “The very act of looking in the mirror, is, for women, fraught with moral consequence.
“The interesting question faced by a female painter interested in representation in the 21st century, when faced with the super-abundance of women painted by male artists of an earlier epoch, becomes: What to do when I am a human being inside the body of the mother that has been portrayed and idealized for so many centuries? What if the painter is inside that body, portraying it from the inside out? My paintings are an attempt to make that investigation visible.”
Haley Hasler is represented by Alpha Gallery in Boston, and Richard Demato Gallery in Sag Harbor, New York. Her work can be seen in the traveling exhibition entitled Separation Anxiety (an exploration of the theme of modern parenthood).
A former art consultant and curatorial assistant, Louise Buyo is the Managing Editor of Professional Artist. To see a portfolio of her writing, visit her Web site. Louise can be reached at email@example.com.
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Posted on Friday, April 29, 2011 and filed under Haley Hasler, News Blog.