Maren Hassinger

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Maren Hassinger
Maren Louise Jenkins

1947 (age 71–72)
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles,
Bennington College
Known forSculpture, Performance Art
Spouse(s)Peter Hassinger

Maren Hassinger (born Maren Louise Jenkins in 1947)[1] is an African-American artist and educator. She is known for her sculpture, video, performance art, and public art in which she often uses materials that are natural or industrial. She is the director emeritus of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Maren Louise Jenkins was born in Los Angeles, California, to Helen Mills Jenkins, a police officer and educator, and late father, Carey Kenneth Jenkins, an architect. At an early age, she showed a gift for art and was exposed to both her mother's interest in flower arranging and her father's work at his drafting table.[1] In 1965, she enrolled at Bennington College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in sculpture in 1969. She originally intended to study dance, which she had practiced since she was five years old, at Bennington. Instead, she sought to incorporate aspects of dance into her sculptures.

In 1969, she moved to New York City to enroll in drafting courses and concurrently work as an art editor at a publishing company. As an editor, she managed the inclusion of African-American images in textbooks, "...a position she has described as 'demeaning.'"[1] Jenkins married writer Peter Hassinger and returned to Los Angeles with her husband in 1970. She subsequently her earned a Master of Fine Arts in fiber from UCLA in 1973.[3][1]

Career and influences[edit]

During Hassinger's years at Bennington College, the institution was an all-women's college with mostly men serving as instructors, many of whom had New York gallery affiliations. Hassinger believed the institutional connections and affiliations of the instructors were distant from the experiences of many students, and she rejected the formal strategies that were being taught. In an essay on Hassinger's practice, Maureen Megerian wrote:

". . . Clement Greenberg's formalist approach dominated the art department, so instructors focused on the creation of abstract, Constructivist-inspired welded steel sculpture. Minimalism, then predominant in the New York art world, presented another model of formulaic, abstract art for students to follow. [Hassinger] ultimately rejected such strict formal strategies, although the discipline of these methods, especially such Minimalist devices as repetition and regular arrangement, provides her work with a rational underpinning that she consciously complicates and makes more emotionally engaging."[1]

Maren Hassinger started her artistic experimentation in a Los Angeles junkyard in the early 1970s, where she came across bulks of industrial wire rope. She found that the material could be used sculpturally and as a fiber that could be manipulated to resemble plant life. It was during this period in the 1970s that Hassinger began to collaborate with the sculptor Senga Nengudi.[4] Incorporating both sculptural and performance work, their collaborative sculptures have been considered ahead of their time due to their process of "combin[ing] sculpture, dance, theater, music and more with the collaborative spirit of community meetings and the avant-garde brio of Allan Kaprow's happenings."[5][6] Additionally, Hassinger utilizes movements of everyday life in her dance.[7] While few of their works from the 1970s remain, Hassinger and Nengudi continue to collaborate, with Hassinger activating Nengudi's sculpture R.S.V.P.X as recently as 2014.[8] Southern fiction writer Walker Percy continued to influence her childhood connection between the natural and the manufactured world with his work, Wreath. Many of Percy's novels, which Hassinger was reading at the time, are about navigating a modern world that was becoming removed from nature. Another influence who struck her was the sculpture work of Eva Hesse. During an exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1973 Hassinger was introduced to Hesse's work and admired her obsessive exploration of forms and techniques, and ability to convey emotion through fiber methods. Hassinger recalled:

"It was as if I was looking at somebody's spirit made manifest. . . it was an absolute gut level, wrenching experience. . . as if the sculpture were made flesh. . . later when I began to read about [Eva Hesse], it was as if she had managed somehow to put all the emotional truth of her life into that piece, and it communicated that way. . . It was a total true expression of life."[1]

Through moving videos, Hassinger has explored personal family interactions and her own family history to tackle themes of identity. Her daughter, Ava Hassinger, is also an artist. The two have produced a video in which they perform improvisational choreography together under the title "Matriarch."[7]

Hassinger's work has been described as "ecological," but Hassinger herself does not see her work as such. Rather, she aims to produce humanistic statements about society and its commonalities.[7] Additionally, Hassinger has addressed issues of equality with works like "Love," a display made of hundreds of pink plastic bags, each containing a love note. Such pieces exemplify how she is able to evoke beauty and themes about society using everyday, common materials.[9]

From 1984-1985, Hassinger worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem as an artist-in-residence.[7]


From 1997 until 2017, she was the Director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art.[10][2][11] Hassinger was an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University for five years.


  • Twelve Trees #2, Mulholland Drive off-ramp, San Diego Freeway, northbound, Los Angeles, CA, 1979[12]
  • Pink Trash, Lynwood, CA, 1982[13]
  • Necklace of Trees, Atlanta Festival for the Arts, Atlanta, GA, 1985-85
  • Bushes at Socrates Sculpture Park, Socrates Sculpture Park, Astoria, Queens, NY, 1988[14]
  • Plaza Planters and Tree Grates, Commissions for Downtown Seattle Transit Project, Seattle, WA, 1986–90
  • Tall Grasses, Roosevelt Island, New York, NY, 1989-90[15]
  • Circle of Bushes, for C. W. Post, Long Island University, Brookville, NY, 1991
  • Cloud Room, Commission for the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport, Pittsburgh, PA, 1992
  • Evening Shadows, University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach, CA, 1993 [16]
  • Ancestor Walk, Commission for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, 1996 [17]
  • On Dangerous Ground, 1981[18]

A subway station in New York City, the Central Park North – 110th Street (IRT Lenox Avenue Line) station, installed a work titled Message from Malcolm by Hassinger during a 1998 renovation. The work consists of mosaic panels on the platform and the main fare control area's street stairs depict quotes and writings by Malcolm Xwritten in script and surrounded by mosaic borders.[19]


Hassinger has work held in the permanent collections of Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, Baltimore, MD; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; Williams College Art Museum, Williamstown, MA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art, Maryland Institute College of Art (2009)[20]
  • Grants, Joan Mitchell Foundation (1996)
  • Anonymous Was a Woman (1997)
  • Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2007)

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Maren Hassinger's work has been featured in exhibitions at numerous galleries and institutions including the following solo exhibitions:[21][22][23]

Selected group exhibitions include:[21][22][23]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Megerian, Maureen. “Entwined with Nature: The Sculpture of Maren Hassinger.” Woman's Art Journal, vol. 17, no. 2, 1996, pp. 21–25. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  2. ^ a b "Maren Hassinger, Director". MICA. 2018. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  3. ^ "Maren Hassinger | Now Dig This! digital archive | Hammer Museum". Hammer Museum. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  4. ^ "Senga Nengudi | Radical Presence NY". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  5. ^ 1943-, Nengudi, Senga,. Senga Nengudi : alt. Jones, Kellie, 1959-, White Cube (Gallery). London. ISBN 1906072876. OCLC 900736735.
  6. ^ Finkel, Jori (2011-11-27). "Q&A: Maren Hassinger and Senga Nengudi". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  7. ^ a b c d "The Spirit of Things | Art + Practice". Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  8. ^ "Senga Nengudi". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  9. ^ Valentine, Victoria (6 June 2018). "Maren Hassinger is Now Represented by Susan Inglett Gallery". Culture Type.
  10. ^ Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture (2011). Material Girls: Contemporary Black Women Artists (1st ed.). Baltimore, Md: Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. p. 30. ISBN 9780615436142.
  11. ^ Frank, Priscilla (2017-02-20). "Museums Celebrate The Black Women Artists History Has Overlooked". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-07-01.
  12. ^ "Inside the Artist's Studio – Maren Hassinger". Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  13. ^ "BOMB Magazine — Maren Hassinger by Mary Jones". Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  14. ^ "Socrates Sculpture Park". Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  15. ^ "Maren Hassinger - NYC Department of Cultural Affairs". Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  16. ^ "Evening Shadows". UAM SCULPTURE PARK, CA State University, Long Beach. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Maren Hassinger - NYC Department of Cultural Affairs". Retrieved 2017-07-01.
  18. ^ "BOMB Magazine — Maren Hassinger by Mary Jones". Retrieved 2017-07-01.
  19. ^ "Artwork: Message from Malcolm (Maren Hassinger)". Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  20. ^ Women's Caucus for Art Honors MICA Graduate Faculty Maren Hassinger, Joyce Kozloff for Lifetime Achievement. Maryland Institute College of Art. February 24, 2009. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  21. ^ a b "Maren Hassinger . . . Dreaming". SPELMAN COLLEGE MUSEUM OF FINE ART. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  22. ^ a b "Faculty Biographies/Maren Hassinger" (PDF). Maryland Institute College of Art. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  23. ^ a b "Maren Hassinger | Radical Presence NY". Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  24. ^ "Exhibitions: Maren Hassinger, Monuments". The Studio Museum in Harlem. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  25. ^ Egan, Shannon, "Maren Hassinger: Lives" (2010). Schmucker Art Catalogs. Book 6.

External links[edit]