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Mangan’s works evoke spirit of nature

John Mangan’s works evoke spirit of nature
The landscape portrayed through Mangan’s paintings reflects his annual, personal travels to Ireland. Here the Coomassig Mountain is represented as part of the beauty of untamed lush land, and a flowing waterfall. Photo by Rachel Camaerei

by Rachel Camaerei

If art is a lens, then the one fashioned by John Mangan captures his cultural and personal relationship to nature in both his ancestral Ireland and the rural scenery of Central Pennsylvania. Mangan does this with a profound sensitivity to the ancient spirit guides of his landscapes.

But Mangan’s artistic career almost didn’t happen. Not yet feeling the steady pull of his artist muse and doubting his creative skill, Mangan first pursued a career in print making. 

After interning with a print company, Mangan soon found out it was the “last thing I wanted to do.” 

Mangan experienced the true temperament of the work and found himself mired in a commercial atmosphere with little creativity and danger to health concerns. After a colleague was diagnosed with cancer, Mangan finished his internship and left the profession of logography behind. 

Mangan returned to school and received his Masters in Fine Arts at Penn State. Around this time, the artist planted the seed that would germinate into his art; his burgeoning love for the natural world became entwined with his artistic skills. 

He took up painting, a medium where he could express his encounters with nature rooted in his ancestral County Kerry Ireland. 

In County Kerry Ireland, the ancient, religious depictions of “the raw spirit of nature” are presented through the Green Man, a vegetative deity that represents rebirth. 

The Green Man, also called the derg corra or “the man in the tree” is depicted on churches and cathedrals all over Europe, but especially Ireland.  

In Mangan’s work, this ancient figure represents both his love for the natural world and his cultural inheritance.

 “In my imagery, he connects me to my Irish ancestors and the life they led connected to the soil and their animals,” Mangan said. 

Mangan frequently travels to Ireland, and could not help b