Patricia Hansen

Patricia Hansen

A Memory of Elephants

The Mother/Child Elephant series evolved from a subconscious seed planted during my artist residency at the Sanskriti Foundation Kendra outside Delhi, India. Traveling along the crowded highways, one sees, among other species, cows, goats, camels, buffalo, and elephants – urban wildlife that is mostly given the right of way. Later, on the same journey in northern Thailand, I had an opportunity to spend time with a group of former working elephants, now rescued. We learned how to care for them, for their physical needs, and in the process, developed a bond and a mutual trust. There were babies of different ages. The tender mother/child relationship was a joyous life-affirming thing to witness. The elephant family dynamics mirror our own in social complexity: the deep sense of family and the highly developed emotional range. 

At the time, I kept a journal, made a few sketches and took some photos. But I determined very early on to remain present through my direct personal experience with the elephant family and their individual personalities.

So, upon returning home (to NYC at the time), the elephants, in my mind, became a metaphor of our relationship to the earth, an expression of our collective unconscious. I reflected more deeply about the issues of our co-existence and how we need to live now – respectful in a sustainable world. The drawings came unexpectedly out of a passionate need I felt to give the elephants a position as “subject” rather than “object.”

“In the gap between subject and object lies the entire misery of humankind.” – Krishnamurti

The drawings are a memory of elephants I have known, especially one: Mae Wan Dee. The elephant family narrative opened a wider focus and vision for my work. Could I speak for more of the other disappearing species and their homes? That desire led to the Habitat series, works of lushly painted tropical greenery I’ve painted as I search for the answer to questions: what can an artist do that has the power to communicate, to be more of an activist for one’s beliefs and hopes for the planet. What is my role and what can I offer? What is a memory that inhabits a space that is not mere nostalgia? How can it be transformed from a song for the disappearing to a call for action?

Patricia Hansen Biography

Patricia Hansen’s first memories about art came from her maternal grandmother, who entertained Patricia throughout her youth with cartoons, poetry and sculpture, the elements she amassed to surprise and delight Patricia. From her grandmother, Patricia learned that, beyond self-expression, art has the power to bind people together, help establish values, and enhance one’s quality of life. In her work, Patricia aims to honor her grandmother’s subtle teachings by going beyond simply the physical into the metaphysical. Her hope is to inspire viewers to look at a painting and to see something in a new way. For her, the work itself is a bridge between subject and object. 

Here are a few examples of her work.