Horse of Spirit at the opening of the sky
mane in the wind part of the universe running from your world to mine
as if we hold a common bond?
From hence did we come and where will we go?
– Running Free Across Time poem by Dana Hassett
An artist with a calm spirit and a passion for authenticity, Dana Hassett draws inspiration from within herself and from the world around her, including the Flint Hills and the American Southwest. She frequently paints en plein air, often alongside Judith Mackey and Deb Schroer, the closest members of her art family.
Her art family extends to SouthWind Art Gallery and owner Gary Blitsch. She said she never dreamed of selling some of her more “unusual” pieces, including “Running Free Across Time,” which pathed the way for her 2016 “SouthWest” solo exhibit at SouthWind. Many of Dana’s works are currently available at the gallery.
Dana wasn’t born into an artist’s life, though she always doodled and drew ever since fourth grade when her teacher encouraged it, she said.
She studied at the University of Kansas, earning a Bachelor in Fine Arts in design. She worked at Hallmark Cards, but soon realized she didn’t want to be a “cubicle artist.” She operated her own retail business for about eight years before selling it. She and her husband have been in the quarter horse business on a professional level for more than 40 years, but an injury in 1996 changed the course of her life. It was then that she turned to painting in earnest.
“When you are down physically, you have to work to get yourself well mentally,” she said. That was more than 20 years ago, but the priority of looking inward, of working on herself, and of using art as an expression of self has never ceased.
“I have to create in order to exist. It’s just that simple.”
The oil painter also creates artworks from her writing and from her dreams.
She said she was “blessed” to have attended art workshops with Daniel Gerhartz and Sherrie McGraw, who were instrumental in shaping her style.
“They not only taught technique; they taught the philosophy of creation, of painting, and to me that was a substantial part of my training. You have to be original, and the technique will follow after that,” Hassett said.
Whenever the mood strikes, she hikes the pastures around her Flint Hills home or drives ten minutes to the higher hills to find and catch an impression on canvas en plein air. Her outdoor studies are used as a basis for her studio work.
Oil painting is Hassett’s lifeline, and through the support of others she has gone from existing in the art world to thriving in it. Her goal is to continue to produce new work, including more plein air paintings of the Southwest. “I want to simplify that work and let line and shape speak of rhythm, color of joy, and I know I don’t have to complete a painting. I want to leave it open to the viewer’s discretion.”
When asked about her accomplishments, she replied “when a collector or an artist comes and looks at a piece, or lives with a piece, and tells me it has enhanced their life, that is very personal and a big accomplishment,” she said.
It’s been almost 12 years since SouthWind Gallery began representing Hassett. “I trust Gary. He’s easy to work with,” she said.
“It’s been fun, entrepreneurial and innovative. I’ve watched them bring artists in and help them develop careers. Gary has monitored my work. Much of it is positive, but when it’s not, he lets me know. It’s been a learning process. I’m especially glad to meet the young people who have worked here. They encourage me and have been a part of many exciting things that have happened to me.”
Hassett’s recommendation for anyone getting into the business is simply…
“Ask yourself: What appeals to you personally? Will that work for you? Will that be authentic when you produce it? And leave the door open for accidental wonderful journeys.”
And pick up the book “The Art Spirit” by Robert Henri.
Hassett is a member of the American Women Artists and Oil Painters of America. Her paintings are shown and collected nationwide.