Thursday, May 8, 2008
Artist to exhibit work at Wells Museum
By SUE WATSON
The Ida B. Wells Museum will present an exhibition of art by Mississippi native Randy Hayes in May.
A worldwide traveller who has photographed many cultures both abroad and in the United States, Hayes is recognized for his unique presentation by mixing photography and art media.
In 1979, Hayes photographed some boxers in a gym which led to his first mature body of work. The photography of subcultures so begun led Hayes to continue focusing on subcultures in Los Angeles and New York, before working in Rome in 1987. A commission from the Port of Seattle provided opportunity for the artist to travel to three continents and India and to amass a large archive of photographic negatives to further examine culture and history.
Then in 1990, he began to paint directly onto photographs and also returned to the deep South to produce a Southern series of photographs.
“Photography and painting have been intertwined since the invention of photography,” Hayes said. “In the 20th century Robert Rouchenberg and Andy Warhol both combined them, but I don’t know of anyone who combines them as I do.”
Although Hayes will exhibit only a few small works at the Ida B. Wells Museum, he will be present for a reception at the museum from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., Saturday, May 17. This exhibit will feature landscapes of Mississippi.
Rev. Leona Harris, curator, said museum supporters are excited to have Hayes for this opening.
“He’s a friend of the museum,” she said. “He has donated a photo of blues and jazz artist Dorothy Moore, of Jackson, a photo of Buddy Guy, a blues artist out of New York, and a photo of the great, late, Margaret Walker, a writer and one of the great trailblazers.”
Though Hayes lives and works in Seattle, he is a frequent visitor to Holly Springs and to Mississippi and has relatives and friends living in North Mississippi as well as throughout the state.
In the United States, his work has been exhibited in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and the Cheekwood Museum in Nashville. Some of his work is now on exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson and is seen in the “Mississippi Story.”
Collections of his work are located in the Seattle Art Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, as well as the corporate collections of Microsoft, McDonalds and Safeco.
In Mississippi, actor Morgan Freeman and his wife Myrna Colley-Lee have included some of Hayes paintings in their collection.
Hayes was born in Jackson in 1944 and grew up in the country near Clinton. His family moved to Tupelo when he was 16, where Hayes graduated high school, then attended Rhodes College and the Memphis College of Arts in Memphis, where he received a B.F.A. in sculpture in 1968.
Possessing an urge to travel early in life, Hayes traveled by freighter to Europe at age 19.
“It was there I made a decision to become an artist,” he said.
After graduation, Hayes served as a VISTA volunteer in Seattle one year, then moved to Boston, Mass., to freelance as a scene painter/designer primarily with PBS Television.
“This had an enormous influence on my life,” Hayes said.
Returning to Seattle in 1976, the artist opened a used book store which included a small gallery exhibiting vintage and contemporary photographs.
“This experience allowed me to become steeped in the history of photography,” said Hayes. “By 1983, I felt I could work full time as an artist.”
Reflecting, Hayes said his childhood development in the South produced the early stirrings of the budding artist in him.
He spent time on his grandfather’s farm where he was exposed to natural surroundings - farm animals, pets, flowers and fruit and pecan trees.
“The whole setting had a gracefulness that, to me, resembled a park more than a farm,” he said. “At age six, I joined my brother and cousins at the school bus stop. I always looked forward to art class, but my work was never singled out for showing on the school halls. It was not until sixth grade, and a new art teacher, that a drawing of mine - a tree stump on the playground - was chosen for exhibit.”
Drawing gave young Hayes a sense of connectedness to reality, he said.
“I made numerous drawings of my horse, or whatever else seemed important to me. Only later, reading Wittgenstein, did I come across a theory that only that which can be pictured is real. Wittgenstein also believed that children form a sense of beauty at about age 12.
“For me, this would be the ponds and fields around Clinton, the river bluffs at Vicksburg, Eagle Lake, Red Creek near Wiggens and the Delta and Gulf of Mexico.
“Standing there on the beeches at the coast, I began to sense the immensity of the world.”
As Hayes got older but still living in Mississippi, he felt all the exciting things happened in other places as seen on television - the California surf and people dancing on American Bandstand.
“I did, at the same time, realize that Mississippi musicians had a tremendous impact on American music,” he said.
While living in Tupelo, Hayes experienced the world from his dad’s car radio - Nashville, Chicago and Louisiana music.
“Years later, I made works of art about the people who seemed exotic to me as a teenager,” he said, bartenders at Chicago’s Checkerboard Lounge, roller skaters at Venice Beech, California, and hustlers in Times Square.
Now a mature artist, Hayes has evolved a method of working that includes travel, photography, and painting on the photographs he takes.
From his large body of work, he has evolved a series of paintings on various themes whereby he paints directly onto photographs and grids of pictures, then the work grid is installed on-site using pushpins.
“While I continue to paint subjects from around the world, for the past 10 years, I have also been working on a group of paintings concerned with my original environment of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana,” Hayes said. “Coming full circle, I have come to see my own heritage as exotic.”
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