Maren Hassinger

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Maren Hassinger
Born Maren Louise Jenkins
1947 (age 70–71)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Alma mater MFA, University of California, Los Angeles, 1973; BA, Bennington College, 1969
Known for Sculpture and performance art
Spouse(s) Peter Hassinger
Awards Grants, Joan Mitchell Foundation (1996), Anonymous Was a Woman (1997), and Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2007); Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art, 2009

Maren Hassinger born Maren Louise Jenkins[1] (in 1947) is an African-American artist. She is known for her sculpture and public art using natural and industrial materials. She works in "sculpture, installation, performance, and video".[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Maren Louise Jenkins was born in 1947 in Los Angeles, California, to Helen Mills Jenkins, a police officer and educator, and late father, Carey Kenneth Jenkins, who was 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 in Bennington College and graduated with a BA in sculpture in 1969. Originally she intended to study dance, which she had practiced since she was five years old, but instead focused on sculpture, incorporating aspects of dance into her sculptures.

In 1969 she moved to New York City to take drafting courses and worked as an art editor at a publishing company where she managed the inclusion of African-American images in textbooks, "...a position she has described as 'demeaning'".[1] The following year Maren Jenkins married writer Peter Hassinger and returned to Los Angeles with her husband, earning her MFA in fiber from UCLA in 1973.[3][1]

Career and influences[edit]

During Hassinger's years at Bennington, it was still an all women's college with mostly men serving as instructors—many of which had New York gallery affiliations. Hassinger believed these connections were distant from the experiences of the many students and rejected the formal strategies that were being taught:

"...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 an L.A. junkyard in the early 1970s where she found wire rope and saw that the material could be used sculpturally and as a fiber, manipulating it to resemble plant life. Southern fiction writer Walker Percy continued to influence her childhood connection between natural and the manufactured world with his work, Wreath. Many of Perry'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."

Nature, or the memory of a time when humanity and nature were more closely aligned, became the subject for [Hassinger's] formal experiments-and for her materials."[1]

Later in life[edit]

She spent five years as an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University.[2] Since 1997, she has been Director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art.[4][5][6]

Collaborations with Senga Nengudi[edit]

Hassinger has regularly collaborated with sculptor Senga Nengudi since the 1970s.[7] Incorporating both sculptural and performance work, their collaborative sculptures have been considered ahead of their time,[8] "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".[9] While few of their works from the 1970s remain, Hassinger hand Nengudi have continued to collaborate, with Hassinger activating Nengudi's sculpture R.S.V.P.X as recently as 2014.[10]


  • Twelve Trees #2, Mulholland Drive off-ramp, San Diego Freeway, northbound, Los Angeles, CA, 1979[11]
  • Pink Trash, Lynwood, CA, 1982[12]
  • Necklace of Trees, Atlanta Festival for the Arts, Atlanta, GA, 1985-85
  • Bushes at Socrates Sculpture Park, Socrates Sculpture Park, Astoria, Queens, NY, 1988[13]
  • Plaza Planters and Tree Grates, Commissions for Downtown Seattle Transit Project, Seattle, WA, 1986–90
  • Tall Grasses, Roosevelt Island, New York, NY, 1989-90[14]
  • 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 [2]
  • Daily Mask, 2004[15]
  • Ancestor Walk, Commission for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, 1996 [16]
  • On Dangerous Ground, 1981[17]

A subway station in New York city, the Central Park North – 110th Street (IRT Lenox Avenue Line) station, installed a work by Hassinger during a 1998 renovation, called Message from Malcolm. It consists of mosaic panels on the platform and main fare control area's street stairs that depict quotes and writings by Malcolm X written in script and surrounded by mosaic borders.[18]


Hassinger has work 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]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Maren Hassinger's work has been featured in exhibitions at numerous galleries and institutions including the following solo exhibitions:[20][21][22]

and selected group exhibitions:[20][21][22]


  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 c "Evening Shadows". UAM SCULPTURE PARK, CA State University, Long Beach. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  3. ^ "Maren Hassinger | Now Dig This! digital archive | Hammer Museum". Hammer Museum. Retrieved 2017-03-11. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Maren Hassinger, Director". MICA. Retrieved 2014-02-01. 
  6. ^ Frank, Priscilla (2017-02-20). "Museums Celebrate The Black Women Artists History Has Overlooked". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-07-01. 
  7. ^ "Senga Nengudi | Radical Presence NY". Retrieved 2018-03-10. 
  8. ^ 1943-, Nengudi, Senga,. Senga Nengudi : alt. Jones, Kellie, 1959-, White Cube (Gallery). London. ISBN 1906072876. OCLC 900736735. 
  9. ^ Finkel, Jori (2011-11-27). "Q&A: Maren Hassinger and Senga Nengudi". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-03-10. 
  10. ^ "Senga Nengudi". Retrieved 2018-03-10. 
  11. ^ "Inside the Artist's Studio – Maren Hassinger". Retrieved 2017-03-11. 
  12. ^ "BOMB Magazine — Maren Hassinger by Mary Jones". Retrieved 2017-03-11. 
  13. ^ "Socrates Sculpture Park". Retrieved 2017-03-11. 
  14. ^ "Maren Hassinger - NYC Department of Cultural Affairs". Retrieved 2016-03-05. 
  15. ^ "Maren Hassinger Biography". African American Performance Art Archive. Retrieved 2016-03-05. 
  16. ^ "Maren Hassinger - NYC Department of Cultural Affairs". Retrieved 2017-07-01. 
  17. ^ "BOMB Magazine — Maren Hassinger by Mary Jones". Retrieved 2017-07-01. 
  18. ^ "Artwork: Message from Malcolm (Maren Hassinger)". Retrieved 2014-02-01. 
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ a b "Maren Hassinger . . . Dreaming". SPELMAN COLLEGE MUSEUM OF FINE ART. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  21. ^ a b "Faculty Biographies/Maren Hassinger" (PDF). Maryland Institute College of Art. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  22. ^ a b "Maren Hassinger | Radical Presence NY". Retrieved 2017-03-11. 
  23. ^ "Exhibitions: Maren Hassinger, Monuments". The Studio Museum in Harlem. Retrieved 19 September 2018. 
  24. ^ Egan, Shannon, "Maren Hassinger: Lives" (2010). Schmucker Art Catalogs. Book 6.

External links[edit]