Archived Story

Hear Chicago painter May 14

Published 6:01pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Visual artist Hank Feeley

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 14

Where: Dale A. Lyons Building theater

Southwestern Michigan College

58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac

This event is free and open to the public

Sponsor: Lyons Industries

Hank Feeley’s style perplexes art critics and is sure to bring a new stream of consciousness to the Dogwood Festival.

The Chicago Reader said his paintings are “sensuous and garish” and “seductive and almost ugly.” Others call an “intersection of Magritte and Marvel Comics.”

The Chicago Tribune found his elements “dreamlike artifacts.”

“I’m looking forward to this,” he said of his Dowagiac appearance on Monday, when he will talk about a journey begun with Cape Cod seascapes at age 9.

Work hung for Dogwood Fine Arts Festival is bound for New York next.

Feeley, born in Boston in 1940, is the rare artist who graduated from Harvard Business School and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which he attended in his 50s alongside students younger than his four children.

“As a kid, I thought of myself as an artist,” said Feeley, who arrived in Chicago in 11952.

Cousins who coached him became commercial artists themselves. But his parents — his dad was an FBI agent — didn’t encourage his ambition. They wanted him to be a lawyer.

After Feeley got out of the Navy in 1965, his father had died, so he looked for work as an art director with advertising agencies.

“I was very naïve,” he said. “I had no commercial experience. I couldn’t get a job” until someone quit in Leo Burnett’s research department. “I said sure, I could do that, even though I knew nothing, but it paid twice what a junior art director made.”

“That put me on the path of business,” said Feeley, who could never shake his nagging feeling that “maybe I’d made a big mistake. It always bothered me.

“I loved advertising,” said the man who rose to vice chairman. He laughs at the notion his job was even remotely  similar to “Mad Men.”

“(With) all the hard work, we didn’t have time for all that other stuff they show,” said Feeley, a grandfather eight times over who had an epiphany during a two-week summer session at Oxbow in Saugatuk.

Taking early retirement in 1993, he committed himself to a double major.

The School of the Art Institute “is not interested in teaching landscape painters,” he said, “but breaking the mold. Art history changed me. I saw art building on what came before, and it completely changed the art I did. What I’m doing now fuses styles.”

Business meetings, of which it has been calculated he attended 40,000, inspired 60 to 70 paintings. Another series explored the information age.

A self-described inveterate collector of images and quotes who works on four to five canvases at once, Feeley rips pages from magazines and tosses them in a box. Preparing to paint, he “reshuffles in a different context than I originally saw, which sparks new thoughts that create the painting. I’m putting together images that weren’t meant to go together. There’s no particular kind of message I’m trying to make except it’s drawn from visually striking things I see in culture.”

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