Sitting in the kitchen of a guy who, as a living, breathing American artist, has been on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art - a rarity if there ever was one - might seem like an intimidating prospect for some, including me.
In the film, "Dreamscapes," directed by film veteran Wolfram Hissen, the director takes an intimate portrait of the process and life of Williamstown’s Stephen Hannock.
Hannock wasn’t sure at first, but a long-time relationship with the director made the decision easy.
"It was interesting because I knew Wolfram from 20 years ago when he was working full time with Christo," he said. "The manager of my studio had a friend in Paris, and we met him in between shooting gigs.
"Fast forward 20 years and he’s going through the Metropolitan Museum and sees these two big paintings that were done by me. And of course he puts the connection together."
Not believing his eyes, Hannock immediately schedule a meeting at The Met to discuss his plan.
"He says, ‘I want to do a movie.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know? I’ve got these paintings I’ve got to do.’ He said, ‘Listen, I’ll just shoot. I’ll just shoot. At the end of some months you will see what we have.’"
The result is an adventure across England, Italy and the States, following Hannock as he creates "Northern City Renaissance,
"You’re drawn in and he gives you a glimpse of what’s going on in his life, in his mind," Colicchio said. "I remember when I saw the first ‘Oxbow’ piece. I walked into the gallery and I saw it and said, ‘Oh, that’s a beautiful piece.’ And it had this light thing going on that I had never seen before. This is special! And then you get close to it and ‘Oh my god! What is that?’ And you start reading."
Colicchio is referring to Hannock’s style of personalizing his paintings with text of a personal nature.
"Over the years, the vistas I was painting of ‘real places’ were coming together in ways that made me think about people and adventures with those people that had occurred within the given location," Hannock said. "Eventually, these remembered events meant more to me than the topography. I responded to that with written passages woven throughout the composition."
In 1991, Colicchio, along with partner Danny Meyer, had and exciting and unconventional approach to a new restaurant design that put Hannock in the driver’s seat.
"(It was) more a matter of just me wanting to do stuff with my friends," Hannock said. "If they wanted a piece for that wall, I would have done it. But the fact they said, ‘Go, talk to the architect, see what you guys want to do.’ And we wound up designing the whole interior of this place."
While he was initially paid for his work, now, "if Tom needs a painting, I give him a painting," Hannock said. It gives him the opportunity to be a part of something bigger.
"These are the best restaurants in the world," Hannock said, "and now the restaurants have been recognized as being cultural achievements, not just eateries where you go hang out. There’s that, too, but it’s a whole new ballgame."
It wasn’t always the artists life for Hannock.
"Well, my dad was a much better athlete than I was. He was close to a Heisman trophy when he was here at Williams," Hannock said. "But I played hockey, that was my sport, and I really loved it."
The ambidextrous net minder spent several years between the pipes for various New England schools.
"Everywhere I went, you were basically encouraged to stay away from the culture arena because it would make the college coaches think you were padding you’re resume. It made sense to me, I hadn’t taken an art course since fifth grade, but to me it came easy.
"At Deerfield Academy, I would get kicked out of class, and the teacher would say, Just go draw!’ The more I did it, the more I realized there was an incredible similarity in the way your mind goes about bring ideas to life in athletics and the way it does in art, it’s very similar. The thought that hits you has to be acted on very quickly and very fluidly."
And while Hissen’s ode to Hannock is filmed non-linear, he captures the moments in Hannock’s life with ease and care
"I wanted to take you on a journey," Hissen said following a showing at Images Cinema. " People tend to rush through art. So art that makes people want to stop is fantastic.
"This is the reality of his life."
Another reality of Hannock’s life is that of an Oscar winner, "three of us, shared two of them. I put mine in a painting," picking up the honor for his work in 1998’s "What Dreams May Come." "It’s in a self portrait that’s in the Brattleboro Museum now.
"It’s the only movie I’ve been involved with," Hannock said.
And he said there are probably not any movies in his future.
Editor’s note: There is so much more to Mr. Hannock, as well as the film ‘Dreamscapes.’ See more in next week’s edition of The Advocate.