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Duane Hanson, Sculptor of Realistic ‘Everyman,’ Dies

January 9, 1996

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) _ Duane Hanson, whose astonishingly realistic sculptures of garish tourists and blowsy supermarket shoppers celebrated common people and fooled passersby, has died. He was 70.

Hanson died Saturday of non-Hodgkins lymphoma at Boca Raton Community Hospital. He had been in frail health for years due to extended exposure to the polyester resins and fixatives he used in his sculpture.

His work, rooted in the Pop Art movement of the ’50s, featured life-size images of men and woman in natural poses, wearing real clothes. They were often the sort of gaudily dressed, overweight people you’d see at a discount store or tourist trap.

Hanson said his work _ with titles like ``Supermarket Shopper,″ ``Woman With Laundry Basket″ and ``Drug Addict″ _ was more than an imitation of real-life characters.

``You have to doctor it up,″ he said. ``That’s where the artistry comes in.″

He explained in 1970: ``Realism is best suited to convey the frightening idiosyncrasies of our time. The purpose of my work, like the flashing road signal, is to depict some of the latent and implicit terrors of our social environment.″

In 1991, one Hanson sculpture fooled a Fort Lauderdale museum guard into calling firefighters to revive an unresponsive woman he found sitting in the museum window.

``You can see the veins in her hands and legs,″ said a police lieutenant who finally realized they were looking at a sculpture.

Hanson ``was one of the most popular artists working in America, in part because his art embraced `everyman’ as a subject,″ said Christina Orr-Cahall, director of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, which is exhibiting some of his work.

Sympathetic critics found either satire or underlying humanity in the figures. Others said they were just dull.

``The only problem is that the sculptures must eventually speak for themselves. And they haven’t much to say on their own, it turns out,″ The New York Times said in 1994.

Hanson’s early works were largely abstract. For a time in the 1960s, he created overtly political works, including ``Abortion,″ a figure of a dead woman, pregnant and covered with a sheet. A 1967 piece, ``War,″ showed dead and dying soldiers.

A Minnesota native, Hanson lived and worked in south Florida for 30 years. He is survived by his wife, Wesla, and five children. A memorial service is set for Thursday, and burial will be Saturday in Spruce Hill, Minn.

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