Venice artist Lynn Hanson’s Cottage
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Cottage as her canvas: the home of Venice artist Lynn Hanson

By Barbara Thornburg

For Venice artist Lynn Hanson, modern cottage living is a mélange of traditional floral flourishes and other feminine touches along with flea-market, garage-sale and alley finds. Think bright and breezy, but with beautiful hints of melancholy. Hanson bought her 762-square-foot house in the early 1980s with her former husband Oak O’Connor. She recalls her first impression: “a dumpy cottage with a bullet hole through the front window” and a motorcycle parked on the lawn. They began by painting the exterior a chalky hue, then added a proverbial white picket fence. Now pots of pink petunias and climbing wisteria brighten the entrance. For a peek at the surprises inside, keep clicking ... (Jeremy Samuelson)
Hanson transformed a dilapidated carport into her light filled studio. Used doors and windows were purchased through the Recycler classified ads for $200.

Hanson grew up in Worthington, Minn., where her grandparents made caskets and owned the town’s funeral parlor. “I can still remember the smell of the embalming fluid and the sadness and beauty of it all,” says the artist, who to this day can find aesthetic beauty in dead things. Her collections of vessels of life once lived -- bleached skeletons, sand dollars, nests and butterflies under glass -- are stationed throughout the house, turning the entire cottage into a cabinet of curiosities.

“I never decorate. The house just evolves,” Hanson says. “Paintings get hung in whatever spot I can find. Sticks and stones get dragged in from my walks. Friends leave fallen nests on my porch that find their way inside.” (Jeremy Samuelson)
A wall between the living room and kitchen came down to enlarge the itsy space. Removing the blue and green shag carpeting revealed a nice hardwood floor. White-washing cabinets and adding a galvanized metal countertop and a nifty 1940 Gaffers & Sattler stove transformed the small kitchen. A 1940s dining table is covered with a vintage tablecloth; the table and the corner cabinet are Santa Monica flea market treasures. (Jeremy Samuelson)
In the living room, a toy box set on casters — purchased at a yard sale for $10 — serves as coffee table. “Old furnishings have character due to their past lives,” the artist says. “I like the idea that another family once gathered at my table and that the toy box once held a child’s things.” (Jeremy Samuelson)
“There’s always something new to excite your senses,” says Lisa Moeschler, next-door neighbor and friend of more than 30 years. A fellow collector, Moeschler found one of the artist’s most prized possessions: a giant crow’s nest that now sits atop Hanson’s living room mantel with vintage jars used as vases and a painting of Hanson’s daughter, Skylar.

“I am first of all a naturalist, albeit without any formal training,” Hanson says. “My curiosity has never waned. I’m still the 10-year-old girl who brought home salamanders and toads, garter snakes and birds with broken wings.” (Jeremy Samuelson)
Hanson says no one really plays the vintage player piano she purchased through the Recycler for $100. “I have such a big living room, I needed it to fill the space,” she quips. “Actually, it’s my best display area. “A pair of framed butterflies under glass — a gift from her sister — sits on the piano with old books, seashells, stones and flowers in Ball canning jars. “My house is like my mind: There’s a lot going on,” she says. “I’m always dragging in new things.” (Jeremy Samuelson)
Set on the piano: Mounted butterflies, sea urchins, sand dollars and an old sterling silver magnifying glass for examining specimens. It’s not so much that Hanson is interested in dead creatures. She prefers them alive. But finding their bodies gives her a chance to study them in a way that photographs do not come close to, she says. Santa Monica gallery owner Lora Schlesinger, who featured Hanson’s work in the solo show “Prone to Wander” a year ago, says Hanson’s art is “inextricably bound to nature. Her home, a living collage.”

In the last two years, Hanson’s realistic drawings and stark seascapes have been in shows at the Santa Monica and Long Beach museums of art, as well as the Samuel Freeman and Rumba galleries in Santa Monica. A solo summer show at Pyo Gallery in downtown L.A., “Plow the Deep,” opened in Seoul in October. Recently, she received an invitation by artist Ed Ruscha to produce a pair of her drawings as lithographs for Hamilton Press, while an upcoming group show at the Lora Schlesinger Gallery in December will feature her drawings and paintings. (Jeremy Samuelson)
Hanson, who calls her style of decorating “drag and drop,” uses a sculptural sycamore branch as her bedroom’s curtain rod. She painted the walls of the tiny bedroom in a deep hydrangea hue. (Jeremy Samuelson)
Hanson bought the glass vase on a pedestal at the Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church yard sale for $1. As photographed, it looks something like a pond in miniature. The artist reports that she has since changed its contents: “Right now I have it filled with shells, a dead fish from the Salton sea, a lobster shell I found at the beach.” Hanson says her work is site-specific: “I’m interested in what’s right here in my own backyard, or in the alley behind my house, or in the tide pool down by the beach. I’m constantly looking for fallen nests or an old cast-off piece of furniture. There’s a poignancy there that shows us the preciousness and fragility of life. It’s all beautiful to me.”

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