JODI HAYS tells Her story

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About this body of work:
I make paintings that circumscribe ideas of the unfinished and upheaval. I use brushes, palette knives, cards, anything to get paint on the surface. Using tape, I measure off lines and reuse the masking tape. The result is work that questions the nature of representation through process and image. I use personal biography to inform my materials, titles, image and process. I am interested in a kind of aesthetic redemption, that a painting can explore a sum of disparate parts and make them whole.

Why do you do what you do?
I paint to process the world, to take it in and be a part of it, and to leave a legacy for my family. 

What’s some worthy advice you have been given?
“Do not envy another’s station.”- Charlie Peacock, Nashville-based musician (and producer of the Civil Wars, among others) said this at an intimate arts conference I attended back in 2000 in NYC.

What music are you currently listening to?
Living in “Music City”, where so many of my friends are musicians, I rely on them to keep me somewhat relevant.  In a few weeks I am going to a Sugar and the Hi-Lows show.  I used to listen to music in the studio all the time, but I’m finding that podcasts or silence are my studio companions these days. When I do play tunes these days, I tend towards the narrative kind, but have an eclectic taste. A few artists include: Jason Isbell, Otis Redding, Wilco, Sufjan, old country (George, Hank, Dolly, Cash), Lucinda Williams, Timberlake, Leagues, Brian Wilson, etc.

What are you currently reading?
Leaving the Atocha Station (Ben Lerner), Edith Perlman short stories, The Magical Art of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo)

What’s on your bedside table?
A book given to me by William Pope.L.  He gave it to me as a gift after assisting him on a film project based partly in Nashville in my “former” life as a curator.
Coral from my mother, which might be from my paternal grandmother who grew up on the ocean and Everglades in Naples, FL.
Books and journals and a clock. 

What are some places you’d like to travel to?

Japan, here are just two of the reasons:  I have a pen pal there that I have been writing for about 20 years (back when people had penpals) and to see all of the pattern, texture and culture.

Did someone influence you to become an artist, specifically, a painter? Was there a relative or a teacher from childhood who may have made an impact or was it just a natural progression?
My Mom was an art teacher for 25 years and always kept art supplies handy. My maternal grandfather was owned a small business and was always outdoors. I remember him making drawings and sculptures or play toys out of objects he found in nature. My paternal grandmother painted as a hobby in her retirement years. I was put in art lessons and lucked out on an art teacher in high school who also understood goals for art school.

In terms of painting, I focused for good on its possibilities and limitations throughout graduate school and since. Growing up in a rural area of the country, I did not see many models of working professional artists/painters, outside of artist/educators. Painting was a choice, like a marriage, of investing my ideas into this set of constraints, with such a rich history. Craig Stockwell and Christine Hiebert (and so many others) were big graduate school influences, allowing me to find a voice and encouraging me in a life-long process that is painting.

Is there a childhood story you’d like to share- perhaps pertaining to being a creative kid?
From an early age I was drawing on walls, not always my own. I am the youngest of three children and love time alone to make, which seems to fit well with the life of an artist.

You went to art school in Vermont. Just wondering what the pull was from Hot Springs, AR to Montpelier, VT?
The route to Vermont was much less direct than it might seem on paper. Out of high school I attended School of Visual Arts (the art school in New York) through their short-lived but inspiring school in Savannah, GA. I still keep in touch with some of the best artists I know now who got to attend this intense, mini “Black Mountain”. After studying Foundations at SVA from some of the best teachers around, I transferred to the University of Tennessee (Knoxville). After earning my BFA, I moved to Cambridge/Boston, MA where I lived and worked in Arts Administration for several years before choosing to attend the longest running low residency MFA program in the country. I think growing up as an “outsider” in many ways from the “art world” gave me a sense of radical, forward-thinking ideology about art and education. Upon earning my MFA, I moved “back” down south to Nashville, TN and have been here since 2005.

From “The Sweet Peach” blog you stated, “The South is a place, rooted in tradition, both dark and light. I grew up in Arkansas and my painting is influenced -even grows from- this kind of view that the world is beautifully tragic and we all have something to say.” I really connect with this sentiment as well, as I grew up on a farm in rural northeast Louisiana. Would you care to elaborate on this in any way?
The south is a place that is scarred and often misunderstood, many times with good reason and often out of fear. There is a kind of cultural and racial awareness here, that I hope moves us closer to justice and understanding. Though my paintings are not only “about” these autobiographical things, I do think that my interest in what I call the aesthetics of the “broke-down” pop up in my personal iconography and use of the language of construction, landscape and site to make something (painting) whole out of broken bits.

Can you tell us a bit about your process?
I keep tear sheets from magazines, IPhone notes full of titles from which to glean a way of getting at a work. In graduate school I wrote a paper “Painting: Negotiating Restraint and Abandon”. The title gets at a long-running interest in the situation of a painting and negotiation in the making. The work is an eclectic abstraction rooted in landscape in many ways, or at least situating oneself as the view in the space of a painting. I paint using brushes, cards, tape and knives as tools, selecting palette often led by titles or a certain set of elements in the work.

About Jodi: 
Jodi Hays is the recipient of the Individual Artist Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission, an Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation grant and her works are included in collections of the J. Crew Company (NY), Nashville International Airport, Gordon College (MA) and the Tennessee State Museum. Residencies include The National Parks of America, The Cooper Union School of Art and Vermont Studio Center. She received her M.F.A from Vermont College, her B.F.A. from The University of Tennessee and studied Foundations at School of Visual Arts (SVA). She lived and worked in Boston for a number of years where she was Assistant Director at the Cambridge Art Association. She moved to East Nashville in late 2005 where she maintains a studio and pop-up gallery (Dadu). Her practice includes work with COOP Gallery (a Nashville-based curatorial collective for which she was a founding member) and teaching.

Studio Visit

Click here to watch a short video of Jodi in her East Nashville studio, shot by her friend, Mary Addison Hackett. 

Design Sponge

DADU- Curated from the Garage

Apartment Therapy

Nashville Artists

Images of Jodi and her studio were shot by photographer, Tina Gionis

Link to gallery Ell.

Link to Jodi’s personal website here . To follow her latest news and press coverage, click here.