Justin Hahn, a Tacoma-born artist known for polymer and bronze sculptures that reflected a quirky sense of humor and fascination with plastics, died Dec. 8 in Tacoma. He was 41.
His death by suicide was confirmed by his wife, Jennifer, and announced Saturday on Facebook by Two Ravens Foundry, the Tacoma bronze foundry where Hahn worked.
“Justin was and will forever be a part of our family, and his presence at the foundry will be forever missed,” co-owners Katrina Toft and Ed Kroupa wrote in the post.
“He had a lot of depression,” Kroupa said. “But he seemed happier lately. I didn’t know (he would do this). I wish I had, I would have done something. It’s kind of important that people know about it.”
Hahn was known for his sculptures of twisted semi-human forms, 3 or 4 feet high, made of bronze or polymers that are the by-product of the bronze-casting industry.
His 2006 sculptural installation, “Significant Figures in the Development of Polymers,” stands outside the Tacoma police substation on South 72nd Street. Eight steel and bronze figures reach out with glove-like polymer hands.
At the time of his death, Hahn and Two Ravens were working with the city of Tacoma to restore the pieces. A completed one stands in the foundry workshop, with a $5 sticker Hahn slapped on it as a joke.
“He liked to do funny things like that,” Kroupa said.
The city will rededicate the work in the spring, along with a memorial plaque to Hahn.
“He was a delightful person,” said city arts commissioner Amy McBride. “His quirky sense of humor. He was so smart and talented. It’s important for people to know about him.”
Born Oct. 8, 1975, in Tacoma, Hahn attended Bellarmine Preparatory School and later earned degrees in engineering technology and fine arts and a Pilchuck Partner scholarship.
He began working at the Bronze Works 11 years ago. When it closed, he worked at a couple of metal fabrication shops in Seattle before starting at Two Ravens in 2013.
“When I first met him, he was fun, always joking, really wild and rambunctious,” said Kroupa, a founder of Two Ravens and a former Bronze Works employee. “Having kids settled him down a bit. But he was always joking, a fun guy to party with.”
Hahn created the installation “Purge Army” for the University of Washington Tacoma and sculpted a family and dog inside a bronze-ribbed skeleton as part of the citywide 2014 MetalUrge show in 2014.
He showed work regularly inside the Tacoma Woolworth Windows and in galleries up and down Puget Sound. In 2007 and 2010, he was a visiting professional artist at Western Washington University.
Most recently at Two Ravens, Hahn worked on the sculpture of Ivan the gorilla, recently installed at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and on Kroupa’s “Floating Life Forms” bronze spheres on the Thea Foss Esplanade.
Hahn loved his three kids, Kroupa said, keeping their artwork and poetry on the walls of the foundry’s kitchen. And, according to McBride and Kroupa, he was a passionate snowboarder and good pie-maker.
A memorial service for Justin Hahn will be at 1 p.m. Friday (Dec. 16) at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 7112 S. 12th St., Tacoma. A trust account is being set up for the family. Donations can be made by calling Kim Heggerness at St. Charles Borromeo at 253-564-5185.