The Ann O’Hanlon Story


Our approach to learning involves hands-on practice with art materials
to establish an interplay between the receptive and the creative
– seeing, and doing, and then seeing again the receptive contemplation of what one has done
.    —Ann O’Hanlon

Ann O’Hanlon (1908-1998) was recognized as the artist in her family a few years after her birth on June 21, 1908, in Ashland, Kentucky. Her younger sister, Myra Dee, is fond of telling stories about the preferential treatment this talent afforded Ann: “’Now, Myra Dee, mother used to say, ‘You know Ann Louise has to protect her hands so you need to do the dishes.’” The oldest of five, Ann helped to raise her younger siblings while her mother became somewhat of a local celebrity for the “beaten biscuits” she used to make and sell in order to help make ends meet.

From these humble beginnings, Ann Louise Rice went on to receive her Bachelor of Art degree in 1932 from the University of Kentucky, followed by graduate work at the California School of Fine Arts, now known as the San Francisco Art Institute. There she met her future husband, Dick O’Hanlon.

 

Kentucky Mural (detail)

At this time Dick was an apprentice to Diego Rivera and was assisting him on the creation of the large fresco which stands in the Art Institute to this day. Four years later Dick and Ann returned to Kentucky to paint their own landmark 40-foot fresco in Memorial Hall at the University. Each day Dick would lay out fresh plaster for Ann while she prepared the pigments for the area she would be painting. This fresco, one of the only true frescoes in the United States, captures the pictorial history of Kentucky, and is still considered one of the most important works of art in the state.

Watch the video by Jerry Nichols of Ann O’Hanlon’s Memorial Hall 1934 Mural: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn59jzk6SUo 

 

Kentucky Mural (detail)

 

After completion of the fresco in 1936, Ann and Dick ventured east, where they spent time in New York City and at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. In 1938 the O’Hanlons returned to the Bay Area, and in 1942, along with a group of family members and friends, bought the old Freitas dairy farm at 616 Throckmorton Avenue, where the O’Hanlon Center still stands today.

As Dick and Ann began to convert the old barn into living and studio space, they attracted neighboring artists and friends, and with their help, in 1948 they raised the walls of Dick’s new sculpture studio, which now houses the O’Hanlon Gallery.

 

 

Ann O’Hanlon portraits by Diana Peters

 

Many thanks to Jane Peters, Assoc. Prof., Art History, University of Kentucky for providing the Kentucky Mural photos.

 


Smithsonian Archive: Ann O’Hanlon


 

Creative Philosophy


Ann authored several publications during her career. The first, According to Ann, was compiled and published by Suzi Martin and Elinor Severinghaus. The second was published posthumously by Arctos Press in 2001 and is called seeing/perception: looking at the world through an artist’s eye. The book was edited by Suzi Martin and Cornelia Wattley, and designed by Jeremy Thornton. It contains many photographs by both Ann and Dick, and a poem by Ann’s nephew, Wendell Berry, the well-known writer.

From the foreword:

“I wish to make this bit of musing a foreword to this manuscript.

For over forty years I have been learning about the creative spark in people and in myself, first through the job of teaching (for the first half-a-dozen years or so), then through the privilege of teaching (for the next half-a-dozen years or so), and then the suspicion dawned on me that I should not be teaching at all, but should be listening, and asking, and exposing, and perhaps nudging (occasionally), and above all, perceiving objectively (forgetting my own subjective preferences) the works of people and the world of nature.

…It dawned on me that the major obstruction to comprehension on the part of (students)…was the fact that they did not know how to see, how to look. It was as simple as that. So I invented an elective non-credit course called Orientation to Visual Experience, and that was the formal beginning of the rest that has been unfolding to the present…Gradually it became very obvious that the ability to perceive—totally—required more than just reading or looking or talking or meditation. It required DOING.” – Ann O’Hanlon

Learn more!  Books are available for purchase.

Seeing/Perception
Looking at the World through an Artist’s Eye

by Ann O’Hanlon with photos by Ann & Dick O’Hanlon

Price: $25.00