Joan Hanley | The Vegetative Soul

Joan Hanley | The Vegetative Soul

The Vegetative Soul

In the fourth century, Aristotle taught that human beings have a rational, animal, and vegetative soul.  The vegetative soul was thought of as a lower soul, with the others above it and of greater value. Its powers were nurturance and growth. This exhibition celebrates the vegetative soul. Joan Hanley paints family members on cell phones, coupling, grouping, and uncoupling as if seen by a plant in the room or a tree out the window. The plant point of view is a deep, less busy, and less intentional approach to things. When Hanley paints, as when she meditates, she tries to retreat from thinking. This non-thinking is close to the traditional understanding of the vegetative soul. Hanley’s paintings invite us to contemplate both the gifts and dangers of this unconscious, still, collective, non-verbal, and unthinking consciousness.

Hanley’s lifelong interest in art history, meditation, and soul psychology has prepared her to approach her painting less heroically.  Her travels to China, Japan, India, and Mexico, leading groups in painting as meditation, studying art, Chan, Zen Buddhism Tantra, and yoga taught her about working with less consciousness and effort. Zen prepared her to value this “lower” perspective. Her studies of Neo-Platonism, Renaissance magic, and Archetypal Psychology led her to value the unconscious and the power of image. The vegetative soul grows, reproduces, and regenerates, not through thinking or even through the senses, but from a deeper (lower) collective power. What might it show us about life in 2024?

Joan Hanley | Biography

Joan Hanley was born in Queens, New York; the daughter and granddaughter of firefighters. She studied at Hartford Art School, the School of Visual Arts NY, and has an MFA from Vermont College. For the past twenty-five years, she has lived and painted in New Hampshire, except for a residency year in Dublin, Ireland, and teaching in Mexico, China, Taiwan, and England. Her studio sits at the foot of Mount Monadnock.

Community is important to Hanley, and so she curates and juries an annual residency in her home state of New Hampshire in addition to facilitating a weekly online international group of artists interested in a poetic approach to images.  She has had a lifelong study and practice of meditation including extended retreats in India (yoga), Italy (meditation), and Japan (Zen Buddhism). Her book “Art & Yoga” is sold in the US and Europe in English and Asia in Mandarin.

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