All Content Copyright © Jack Hayes
by Stacy Smith - Kansas State University
The sound of chimes floats in from the deck, stirred by an easy Kansas spring breeze. Inside, we sit next to Jack's studio, surrounded by his work, talking about art and how Jack came to painting:
Technically, my paintings are nonobjective arrangements of shapes, colors, and composition, usually with an asymmetric compositional balance and color schemes that convey different moods.
Yet my intent is to tap into something deeper than image recognition or technical representation; to explore something that goes beyond (or beneath) images and is common to humankind: how people experience beauty.
My paintings aren't paintings of something, necessarily; they are paintings that are embodiments in themselves. They're parts of me more than they are paintings of something I've imagined.
I like to sit covertly in galleries or other places where is my work is displayed and eavesdrop on people's reactions to my work. To my surprise, I've witnessed children getting very excited about my paintings - even really small children who don't know a thing about academic abstract art. I've never seen children get that excited about portraits and images of landscapes and so on. I don't understand it, but what a gas that is for me.
When I'm painting, I feel totally focused in the moment. It's the same feeling I get when I'm participating in some intensely focused physical activity. When surfing, windsurfing, or practicing Aikido, I feel so in touch with the moment that it's a real spiritual experience.
If I can give other people some glimpse into that feeling with my paintings, then I'm connecting with them with that sense of being in the moment. If people look at my art and experience something in that moment, then that's an important form of communication, I think. It's beyond words. That's when I think of the small children jumping up and down and exclaiming excitedly to their parents.
I started painting as a child. My first commercial painting gig was at age 8, painting t-shirts with hot-rod monsters. As a teenager I was filmed building Chinese kites out of bamboo and rice-paper for a gallery opening. The bamboo stretched the rice paper enough to make a nice canvas for me to paint on. The watercolor shrinks the paper, and voila; functional flying art.
At age 19 I went to England for a year, where I fell in with an “artsy” crowd and spent a lot of time at museums - I was getting an art education without really trying to. At the time I was impressed by H.R. Giger. His art is so surreal; he's very sensitive to the darker side of human nature.
These days I'm more interested in the brighter side of human nature; the light arising out of the darkness.
I soon became more interested in the Modernists, the Abstract Expressionists , the Color Field and Non-Objective painters; artists such as Jules Olitski and Robert Motherwell. In those days I was painting portraits and doing figurative work; even though I tried, I couldn't break through and get any more abstract than the surrealists. It was important to me to try: once I'd proven to myself that I could do portraiture, I felt I should be able to release myself into other areas.
In 2000 I met Winston Branch, a visiting professor at Kansas State University. He helped me to get past the inability to do a painting or drawing without a figure. Branch has been acknowledged as a master of the modern era, and with his guidance and encouragement I was really able to break out and paint what I really wanted to. I've been experimenting with that ever since.
So while I started out painting portraits and other, figure-ground work, I prefer to paint abstract, non-objective works. This is more challenging to me because it's harder for me to make those work, really, than anything figurative or representational. I found that very hard to do; this work is much more challenging - and satisfying -- to me than that ever was.
So while, technically, my tools -- paint and canvas and brushes -- are all quite ancient and the path to color-ground painting has already been paved - each painting feels new to me. I hope my work can offer you the same kind of experience it offers me: that sense of being truly alive; truly in the moment.
Stacy Smith - Kansas State University
Jack Hayes has works in a number of private and public collections, and has had shows in various venues across the U.S.
He was recently awarded a Bremer/Thrivent Artist in Residence grant from the Epiphany Fine Arts Program of the University Lutheran Church of the Epihany of St. Cloud MN. Part of the award is the honor of serving as the curator of the program after having had his own show in that excellent venue.
In 2008 he was awarded the Outstanding Downtown Promotions Award from St. Cloud for having founded the Art Crawl there in 2005. That program is lively and well.
If you are interested in learning more about Jack's work, contact him here. Jack and Dylan