While the story of Lindsborg Artist Mike Hartung is a delicious one, it is also achingly sad.
Quiet man moves into a space and paints, reclusively, for 40 years. He never seeks representation, never attempts to sell, and never shows over 700 works to anyone. He makes few friends.
In 2015 Mr. Hartung was visited by several friends he had not seen in over a decade. They found him in ill health and foundering. It was during their visit that his huge trove of paintings was discovered. They convinced Hartung to show the work. And through their efforts were able to book 3 separate exhibitions, at the Sandzen, the Salina Art Center, and Ft. Hays University, which run simultaneously through October 22nd.
What I found at the Sandzen Memorial Gallery were very large, important, post expressionist type paintings on masonite that have the feel of Max Beckman, Otto Dix, and Peter Doig. Some works possessing a calm sadness, many portraying wounded, or traumatized humanity. Most hold clues that tell the deeper tale of future hope, or inevitable failure. An old woman stealing eggs. A lone figure in a night time laundry mat. A sad waitress on break--seen through a greasy window. There is no sensationalism, spectacle, or hokey humanism. Hartung's work is hauntingly gorgeous and forceful.
I am so thankful that Mr. Hartung has let us see his great secret. Collectively, we have found the Stradivarius in the attic.