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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Say YES to Your Adventure

Joseph Campbell, American Mythologist, once observed, "The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty YES to your adventure." A hearty YES is an attitude local artist Hank Keneally continues to weave into the fabric of his life and art. Hank believes, "The story of our lives comes through the art of our culture." Born in San Francisco, California, his early story began in the music world, with his older brother Mike quizzing him on the great composers. Hank's grandmother, a piano teacher, had him learn the keyboard; by age 6, he was heading for a group recital in San Francisco. He remembers, “I learned to read music before I could read words.” By age 11, he was off the keyboard and on the trombone, practicing two hours a day. Hank credits the habit of being disciplined with success in his career as a counselor and the arts.

Hank's family moved to Phoenix in 1956, with his father's job coordinating Public Health Education for Native American tribes in 5 states. By age 14, Hank became the principal trombonist in the Phoenix Youth Symphony and, in the following two years, was the principal trombonist in the All-State Orchestra. He attended Arizona State University (ASU) on a music scholarship. After completing his Bachelor's in Sociology, Hank continued his education, completing his Master's in Sociology and Counseling at ASU. Keneally credits his interest in giving back to others, through counseling, to his father and his passion for fine arts to his mother.

Hank began studying photography with Jack Stuler at ASU during his early twenties. He recalls, "Jack taught me to view the world through a child's perspective and introduced me to the work of Edward Weston, who became a major influence on my work." Hank would be fortunate to attend photography workshops with Weston's son Cole and other great photographers in the field, such as Dick Arentz, Bruce Barnbaum, and Judy Dater. By the time Hank was in his early 30s, he had met and received tutorial insights and suggestions from photographer Frederick Sommer. During this time, he could push his photography into the modernist realm. Eventually, not convinced he had pushed the edge far enough, Hank turned to studying art, unraveling structure, traditions, and relationships of form and composition in the process.

While Hank’s creative side was exploring 'creation' possibilities, his intellectual side was working in a private counseling practice with his wife. Here the 'power of myth' took shape in different and surprisingly similar ways. Using the blend of the two, Hank developed a serious commitment to painting along with continuing his photographic creations. Hank moved his art into what he called 'expressionist portraiture,' applying his interest in the human psyche and his photographic expression of form. At this point, Hank found himself out of the Age of Aquarius and into the Age of Computers. His photographic and painting creations evolved into the digital universe traveling toward light years of possibility.

“Jack Stuler at ASU taught me to view the world through a child’s perspective and introduced me to the work of Edward Weston, who became a major influence on my work.”

Today, retired from his counseling practice, Hank works as a full-time artist. His current passion is working on a series in Mixed Media.

This work uses the structure and aesthetic of his 'Diffusion Portraits' series and expands it to include drawing and painting in layers on his archival pigment ink prints. Hank is also the creator of two books featuring his work; Wallescapes embodies the concept that walls are signs of the world's beginning and ending, and Diffusion Portrait is inspired by the process of making photographic portraits. As Joseph Campbell wrote, "Follow your bliss, and the Universe will open doors where there were only walls." This concept has certainly been true of Artist Hank Keneally’s life and work; great things happen where arts merge.


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