Jodi Hays

Jodi Hays

Loving Nashville-based painter Jodi Hays' abstract compositions! Check out this great interview as she preps some work for a solo show in November, and find more at the links below!

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I'd love to know a bit about you! Can you introduce yourself?

I am a painter from Arkansas living in Nashville, Tennessee, with some years in Georgia and Massachusetts.

When did you first discover or become interested in art? Was there a moment when you knew you wanted to pursue making it?

My Papaw drew a story for me about a man, tracing his steps like a map to a lake and to gather firewood. At the end of the story was a drawing of a big bird. Does this make any sense? Because pint-sized me was besotted. 

Then I can remember being the kid asked to draw stuff, and also spending hours making a mess on a project, a drawing, a decorated school box. Even before, my Mom tells me that I drew on a friend's new white bedspread and wall (maybe I was 2/3).  At least one of my kids has this same compulsion.

What has your art education been like, whether formally or informally?

Both sides of grands had some art spark. I didn't grow up seeing a lot of "professional" artists, or any museums, for that matter. I loved my childhood, a state as stunningly beautiful and rural as Arkansas is the perfect place to grow up an artist. I was really lucky to have a few people in my life on my side, (including my Mom, an art teacher), who advocated for my going to art school, even though I was really good at track and studies, in general.  

I recently read Hillbilly Elegy. Though it's not exactly my biography, I connected profoundly to the description that there were certain "ways" to do a career, and you are lucky if you find someone to clue you in on those ways the (art) world works. The other students (and even still, other artists) seemed to know things about which I was clueless. I have figured some of it out along the way, some not.

My schooling has been deep, renegade and all about the hustle.  Starting with School of Visual Arts' and their short-lived Savannah, Georgia campus (insert Black Mountain School heart eyes emoji).  Then over to the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) After undergrad I learned so much from working at a non-profit artists' co-operative in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While living in Boston I earned my MFA at Vermont College, a mythic hippie art education project for the deep-hearted and sharp-minded (the first low-residency program in the country).

How would you describe your work?

When I chose to paint exclusively in about 2008, part of that choice was for painting’s ability to comment on itself and to leverage the overlap of painting’s properties with the preoccupations on my practice--artifice, time, landscape, grids, and structure. My work is grounded in a hybrid abstract/landscape iconography.

What is your process like?

I use my phone for note taking--both in Notepad, and through a tumblr blog of images that serve the practice. I also read a lot. I have no idea how much time I spend on a work. Well, I have some idea, but I never know if that's relevant.

What is your studio or workspace like?

I work in a garage behind my house, and am lucky that at least two amazing artists live within two blocks and do the same. It's a great place. I am able to peek in if I have 5 minutes, or spend hours when needed. 

Do you have a favorite mantra, quote, or piece of advice you rely on when you're working?

I go by Helen Molesworth's quote (any one really) but one regarding Amy Sillman's model of an artist; “It’s the older model,”  she said. “You went to school and then you worked alone, hard, until you got good.”  

What do you need or value most as an artist?

Hard work and kindness and smarts, I love smarts.

What is or has been the most challenging or daunting aspect of pursuing art? (professionally or creatively!)

I was just talking to someone about this today. The daunting this is the ache and pursuit of making (it's the greatest thing) only matched by living in a world of things not being quite right. My life intersects with such pain and sadness, yet there is this hope in art making.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I am cleaning my studio so next week I can take a few stabs at some larger works that will be in my solo show this November. Most of the work has turned monochrome and mostly red, and shifted more towards representation and mostly watercolor on paper. I am publishing a small book congruent with the show, and the book will include watercolors of things I see walking in my neighborhood. So, there's all the stuff leading up to a show like this, one that, because of this specific moment in our country, feels dependent and important and tender all at once.

Find more at jodihays.com and on Instagram @jodihaysstudio!

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