Iron Spotlight: Jason Hanasik

We have the good fortune to work with some pretty remarkable individuals, clients and partners alike. And every now and then, we’re stopped in our tracks by a truly curious character whose unconventional ideas and approach to life compel us to share his story. Today we’d like to introduce you to Jason Hanasik – installation artist, storyteller, Senior Manager.

Jason is unique in many ways and we could dedicate an entire series to his artwork alone, but what interests us the most about him is how he’s taken his experience in an artistic practice to a corporate profession. If being a widely exhibited and published artist, working in a variety of media including photography, film and installation, wasn’t enough, he also moonlights in the daylight as the Senior Manager of Digital Brand Communications for Gap-North America.

Jason is a natural storyteller. He understands the power a story has to capture our imagination and stir our emotions. His innate gift is felt in every piece he creates, and more recently he’s brought this invaluable skill to his nine-to-five. It’s a very exciting time in Jason’s life. Each day he’s generating stories of varying forms to help shepherd creative inspiration within his team. Most notably was the video he made for Gap Inc which became their contribution to the international “It Gets Better” video project. As Jason says, “I concept, capture, edit and deliver various stories for Gap’s internal and external customer. (Who knew there was a dream job for me in the corporate world?)” 

Here’s what he had to say:

Do you have a mentor or inspirational figure that has guided or influenced you?

I’ve been lucky enough to have many mentors along the way (notably photographer Jo Ann Walters and multidisciplinary artist Larry Sultan), but before any of them appeared there was my choral teacher, Mr. K at Salem High School in Virginia Beach, VA.  He instilled quite a few important concepts in me but his phrase, “music isn’t just notes and words” continues to inform my artistic and professional practice daily.

Musically speaking it made total sense but when I finally realized that the way to connect with people wasn’t through great technical proficiency or evocative ideas (although those help) in other media and investigations, everything suddenly clicked. Truly, it’s the authenticity and clarity (in all of its manifestations) of the message.  In short, whatever it is, it has to be more than just notes and words.

Where do you feel most at home?

Strand bookstore in New York City at 9pm on a Saturday night.

What is your proudest achievement in work?

A month or so ago, one of the designers on my team took me aside and said, “A year ago, I didn’t think I was going to be here in a year.  Working for you has not only made me feel more excited than ever to be in my role, but I feel alive again as well.”

What is your proudest achievement in life?

Towards the end of the reception for my first solo show in New York City, I saw a woman crying while looking at the end of my project “He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore.”  I introduced myself and asked her if she needed anything.  She looked up at me with big, beautiful, wet eyes and said, “Thank you.  My son just got back from Iraq a few months ago and he just hasn’t been the same and I didn’t understand.  Now, I understand.”

What is your greatest extravagance?

Don’t tell anyone but I am about to hire someone to come clean my apartment.  I find it to be completely ridiculous that I need someone to do this for me and totally necessary at the same time.

At what points do life and work intersect?

I don’t see a disconnection between the two.  Then again, when I was solely pursuing my life as an artist, there was never a disconnection between what I made and who I was so the notion that my work should not be an extension of my life seems foreign.  Sure, there are weeks when it definitely feels like “just a paycheck” but more often than not, I am surrounded by really curious and interesting people who challenge me the way my good friends, other artists and family do.

What is your greatest fear?

I used to fear (and secretly sometimes still do) that the people I trust/trusted would one day turn around, start laughing and say, “Jason, you have no talent at all.  We’ve been lying to you this entire time.”

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Be like a duck, where everyone can see, it should look like you are gliding effortlessly and elegantly along.  Below the water, in your gut, you should be moving as quickly as possible, course correcting where and whenever possible and no matter what, always be moving.

Can you recommend a book or poem that has changed your perspective on life?

In business, Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” and in art, “What we talk about when we talk about love” by Raymond Carver.

What’s your favourite cocktail?

Rye’s Basil Gimlet

If you could add one question to this questionnaire for our next interviewee, what would it be?

What non-profit is doing work most aligned with your vision for a better future?

Mine: The Ali Forney Center in New York City

This interview was originally published on Iron Creative's blog: Iron Spotlight.