Hib Sabin

Hib Sabin

“My goal is not to recreate a mythology, but bring past and present together in a multi-dimensional form that speaks to its mystery.  What is the spirit of a bird and the power within it?  To convey this artistically is to bring the physical and spiritual together in a carving that has power.  What is the essence of this power and what does it mean to connect with it in the most primitive, archetypal sense?  For the answer to this I turn to the mythologies of the world, for it is they that have the potential to divulge the mystery of these immortal characters.” 

Hib Sabin’s fascination and love of mythology and culture ripened during his extensive travels throughout the world. Born in Baltimore in 1935, Sabin (Non-Indigenous) attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and came of age during the height of Abstract Expressionism. He taught art at a number of institutions until 1970, when he switched gears to become a full-time artist.

As a student of shamanism, Sabin is attuned to the connection between the human and animal spirit worlds. Among his most memorable and influential experiences have been the study of Pacific Northwest Coast Native peoples and their rich and ancient mythology.

His world travels have aided in inspiring his work and his appreciation of its cultures. Towards the end of the Cold War he time spent working with peace groups in Russia towards the end of the Cold War, and began the sister city program between Santa Fe and Bukhara, Uzbekistan. He was awarded a Ford Foundation grant and went to India to study Indian mythology, art and culture, and apprenticed with a Mexican curandero during his stay in Mexico. Sabin also spent time with the Hadza people of Tanzania, and the Australian Aboriginal societies, exploring how contemporary cultures exist in their natural environment and adapt to modern existence. Journeying throughout these places has taught Hib that, “regardless of where people live, there is a certain commonality among us all.”

Sabin’s cast of figures moves in and out of the spiritual world, evoking a global pantheon of multiple influences. Some works reference specific myths and stories, such as the Northwest Coast myth of Raven Stealing the Light, or the Homeric “Odyssey.” Themes of transformation are common in his work, specifically transitional moments between life, dreaming, and death. His ravens, owls, eagles, bears, wolves and cougars are stand-ins for the human soul, and the many states the soul can achieve.

Sabin works predominantly in juniper wood, carving shamanic masks and maskettes, spirit bowls and canoes, elongated birds, and tableaux of human/animal hybrids depicting scenes of travel and connection. “I consider myself a person of the world; consequently I take great interest in the mythologies of humankind.  What I passionately explore is the essence of traditional myth as it is applicable in our time…My goal is not to recreate a mythology, but to bring past and present together in a multi-dimensional form that speaks to its mystery.”

Hib Sabin has been a practicing artist since 1957. He received a BFA in Studio Art and Art History from a coordinated program between the University of Pennsylvania and The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He went on to obtain his MFA in Art History from the University of Pittsburgh. Following this period Hib continued his role as academician and became an instructor of studio art and art history at Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh; an Associate Professor of studio art and art history at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA; and an instructor of art history at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA.  Stonington Gallery is proud to have represented Hib Sabin for almost two decades.

Watch his 2020 Artist Talk to learn more about the works in his most recent exhibition, “In My End is My Beginning”:

Digital catalogs are available to read online: