Artist Interview-Mayon Hanania

Artist Interview-Mayon Hanania

Mayon Hanania


January 3-February 2nd | 2020

Interview conducted by Katherine Whitlock


Mayon Hanania is inspired by the Pacific Ocean, flora and fauna, and Los Angeles as a diverse subcultural magnet.  As a Plein air sketchbook painter, Hanania captures the essence of a person, place, or object through her classical color applications. These moments represent a candid and personal narrative that, when strung together, offers a glimpse into her alternative world. 


Kate Whitlock– Let’s get right to it- I saw you post about your butt paintings. What is it about butts? Are they like faces in the sense that each one is a little different, and you can always tell who’s who? 

Mayon Hanania– First of all, I think butts are great to paint, and they have been painted a lot in the past. I wanted to enter that “tradition” of the nude painting but in my own modern way. I anchored them in the present by having my models wear t-shirts with the logo of landmark California fast-food restaurants. And yes, we can say that butts are like portraits but anonymous ones. The models I paint are over-exposed and vulnerable but also protected by the fact that in reality, the butt isn’t on your I.D. The viewer is left to guess who that “butt” might be. Of course, butts have personality, and you can definitely tell when I paint the same butt twice!


KW- Can you talk more about the fast-food t-shirt choices in the paintings?

MH– The T-shirts are all about “that cool logo from your favorite place to eat.” It’s an obsession of mine! When I go to a spot I like, I can’t help buying a t-shirt. I bring it home and wear it proudly! It’s part of my “péché mignon.” I wanted to create a relationship between the butt and the t-shirt–a fun one obviously. A frozen banana, donuts… all suggestive images but not overly aggressive. I moved to San Pedro after growing up in France, and so much of California culture is linked to food and the “healthy” way of life. I am vegan but I do love a good old donut and the meat-less burger at In-N-Out, so I balance that not-so-healthy diet with a lot of swimming in the ocean. And that also explains my “penchant” for tan-lines!


KW– The essence of your painting technique seems to stem from traditional Plein air. Who are your painting influences? 

MH- Absolutely! Plein air is a difficult exercise– connecting the world outside with your brain and trying to render it as quickly as possible with a brush and some oils. It’s stressful sometimes but it’s such a good exercise to understand colors and composition. Similar to Plein-air but transposed in the studio would be the act of painting from life. I did all my preliminary sketches for the portraits from life so I could work from a vision that was really mine and not from a photograph. When I was still living in France I was surrounded by the musée d’Orsay, le Louvre, etc., where I used to go constantly. It was only after moving to California that I really learned oil painting and the art of the portrait. I am influenced by Félix Valloton, Pierre Bonnard, Alice Neel, and Henry Matisse. 


KW- You are able to capture the essence of a person through your quick strokes and gestures. How would you describe the feeling when you know you captured it?

MH- It’s the best feeling ever! When I paint a portrait, every step of the way I’m telling myself, “It will eventually get better.” I try to keep faith in myself but I have that feeling that I might have been lucky with the previous portrait. I heard about this feeling from other artists– when you don’t have an “artistic recipe” you take risks. Portraits are risky! It’s always different– a person you thought might not be the best to paint will be your best portrait, and someone you were excited to paint will be a nightmare to figure out. Plus I would say that the model will most likely hate the portrait. I personally love to paint my partner, I love everything about his look and face and I could draw or paint him over and over again without getting bored.


KW- Can you elaborate on your sketchbook projects? 

MH– Sketchbooks are part of my daily life, and sometimes I fill up one or 2 a month. They are used as a diary or just to record drawings, thoughts, and paintings. R.Crumb said somewhere that a sketchbook is the first step. You have to start sketching and practicing in a sketchbook before jumping on a canvas. I filled up around 15 sketchbooks since I moved to California in 2016. It is a great way to meet other people, get outside and sketch in different places, restaurants, concerts, exhibitions, etc.


KW- Where is one place you would love to spend an extended period of time making work?

MH– I was hired for a “dream project” for a luxury hotel called “Manapany” in St. Barthelemy (Carribean Island). I was paid to make 300 sketchbook drawings while staying on the island for two weeks. I filled up so many sketchbooks and the result is hanging on the walls of the hotel rooms! 300 original drawings! I want to do that again, but in HAWAII…please !!

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