The paintings of Darcie Lee Hanaway reflect life changes

"The American Dream" 4'x4' by Darcie Lee Hanaway

A couple of weekends ago, artist Darcie Lee Hanaway hosted a pop-up show of her work at the Tashmoo Spring Building, located just below the overlook on State Road, Vineyard Haven. The one-day exhibit was accompanied by live music from Good Night Louise, Willy Mason, Alex Karalekas, and Jemima James.

“It was sort of a happening,” Ms. Hanaway said, referencing the spontaneous artistic events that bolstered the downtown NYC art scene in the 1960s.

“I enjoy that concept, the multisensory experience,” Ms. Hanaway said. Guests strolled in and out of the historic brick building, enjoying the art, the view, and the music.

Ms. Hanaway exhibited over 30 paintings, ranging in size from quite small to very large (4 feet by 4 feet). Also included in the show were two sculptures by Josh Campbell.

Ms. Hanaway works in mixed media. Her paintings are a cross between abstract and representational, often featuring indistinct figures whose forms are mirrored in colorful distorted geometric shapes and other abstract elements.

Lately the artist’s work has been informed by changes in her life. In May, Ms. Hanaway gave birth to her first child, a son named Grey. While she was pregnant, the artist’s brother died. His death came on the heels of the loss of a close friend. The past year has been a very emotional time for Ms. Hanaway.

“So often when you lose people in your life, you turn to alcohol or other ways to cope,” she said. “I was pregnant. I couldn’t do that. I just had to move through. I had no other choice but to look it right in the face.”

Ms. Hanaway’s work helped her to process her feelings, and has also led her in new artistic directions. “There’s a lot of love and loss,” she said of her latest series of paintings. “I call them love warriors. A heart is showing up a lot. There are some figures that are quite tribal and some more robotic. Some are winged.”

Among the latter is a large (6 feet by 3 feet) painting titled “Winged Warrior.” It’s a very abstracted form defined by a large Viking-style horned headpiece and an oversize set of wings. The colorful painting is a tribute to Ms. Hanaway’s brother. It’s a striking piece with an uplifting and spiritual quality.

Two other paintings, “La Familia” and “American Dream,” deal with family. The latter features an American flag, a small red house, and what appear to be two adult figures and one child. “A lot of what I’m dealing with is love and family,” Ms. Hanaway said. “The nuclear family and what it means to me. What it means that I chose to be a single mom.”

“I’ve been moving more into a different kind of abstract,” the artist said. “The work is almost more elementary, more primal. There’s almost a childlike innocence to it. Maybe that’s just because I just had a baby.”

Ms. Hanaway created all of the pieces in the show during the past year — some on the Vineyard, and some in Key West, Delray Beach, and Miami, where she spent the previous winter. Along with a few of her artist friends, Ms. Hanaway set up a space to work and exhibit in Miami during Art Basel last December.

Always on the lookout for new experience, Ms. Hanaway will be spending much of this winter in Austin, Texas.

“I have a good friend there who also just had a baby,” Ms. Hanaway said. “She does these painting retreats. It’s a form of art therapy. We’ll see what we can do down there.”

Darcie Lee Hanaway’s work can be found at the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven and on display at Lucky Hank’s in Edgartown. For more information, visit her website at