Bruce Hasse's Mobiles at the Media Factory Heighten Art Hop | Visual Art | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Bruce Hasse's Mobiles at the Media Factory Heighten Art Hop

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Published September 6, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.


Mobile by Bruce Hasse - PAMELA POLSTON ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Pamela Polston ©️ Seven Days
  • Mobile by Bruce Hasse

Bruce Hasse took a circuitous route to becoming a sculptor. While earning a degree in industrial design at Pratt Institute in the late 1960s, he became an avid photographer. After a short stint working in New York City, he moved to Vermont and embarked on a series of seemingly diverse professions: jewelry maker (with his wife, Stephany Comen Hasse), carpenter, technician in a dental lab and then at IBM. But all these experiences honed his aptitude for working with his hands, and Hasse's love of the outdoors led him to wood and other natural materials.

"In retrospect, they're all related," he said of his career choices. "But I feel like I'm living my best life. I plan to do this as long as I can."

For Hasse, now 78, doing it also means showing it. For Burlington's South End Art Hop, which begins on Friday, September 8, he's exhibiting three mobile sculptures at the Media Factory on Flynn Avenue, where he has shown suspended works before. "It's the best place for mobiles," Hasse declared.

He began making wall-hung, stand-alone and mobile assemblages just five years ago. Though he doesn't make art for a living, "it's more than a hobby," Hasse said. He's exhibited his creations five times at Studio Place Arts in Barre — including, for a recent exhibit about invertebrates, a masterful wood and cattail jellyfish in a handmade vitrine titled "Acer saccharum Medusozoa."

The wood, referenced in the name, is sugar maple, sourced from a tree toppled by a windstorm last year on the Hasses' Charlotte property. It turned out to be a tree that keeps on giving — with the urging of Hasse's chain saw.

The artist currently has six mixed-media mobiles hanging at the Charlotte Public Library, where high ceilings, ample light and gentle currents of air show them to best advantage. Hasse said he takes his mobiles apart and reassembles them repeatedly until he's happy with how they balance. "I like the angles to be a little more complex," he said.

Bruce Hasse in his studio with a work in progress - PAMELA POLSTON ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Pamela Polston ©️ Seven Days
  • Bruce Hasse in his studio with a work in progress

In his home studio — a former one-car garage now filled with all manner of power and hand tools and scraps of wood — Hasse has crafted numerous sculptures from maple and other woods, along with the odd bit of hardware or found item. "I started with wood, then got into other materials, especially plastics," he said.

Outdoors, his magpie-like observation zeroes in on shiny junk such as a hunk of chrome, a small makeup mirror, a reflector from a bicycle. Hardware stores — and his own house — yield useful items including packing strips, bright turquoise wire, egg cartons and cut-up milk jugs. Hasse has learned a variety of ways to connect object A to object B. "Thank God for space-age adhesives," he quipped. He also admits to "stealing" from his ceramicist wife's cache of powdered dyes.

In the studio, Hasse is currently working on a six-foot-tall, longboat-shaped piece of white pine with a 24-inch disc of spalted maple at its center. He hasn't decided yet on a vertical or horizontal orientation. Experimentation is the fun part. "I really enjoy the exploration of materials and processes," Hasse said.

The Hasses bought their 1.2-acre property on Spear Street in 1974. At the time, the house was just 800 square feet, but the couple have since added to it considerably. The place is filled with art of all kinds — including Hasse's atmospheric black-and-white photographs — as well as shrine-like collections of pretty rocks and botanical components. In a window-lined sunroom, Hasse's wood and mixed-media sculptures sit on every surface, leaving no perches at all for the two resident cats.

Mobile by Bruce Hasse - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Mobile by Bruce Hasse

Though it's impossible to look at mobiles and not think of American sculptor Alexander Calder, Hasse's tabletop and wall-hung sculptures are uniquely his own. The assemblages generally showcase the handsome qualities of wood in contrast with metal, stone or plant-based elements. One voluptuous work, though, playfully references other artists at least in its title: "When Henry Met Francis." That would be Henry Moore and Francis Bacon.

Hasse said he's disappointed that his sculpture "Starhart" was not accepted into the Art Hop's juried show this year. Consisting of a foot-long piece of spalted maple with a "spine" of agate and quartz chips and a round rock base, the piece has ancient-specimen vibes. Perhaps it will fit in a future themed show at Studio Place Arts.

Meantime, Hasse's mobiles are commanding the airspace at the Media Factory. Art Hoppers, remember to look up.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Air Borne | Bruce Hasse's mobile sculptures heighten Art Hop"

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