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Painting Maine: Connie Hayes and the Borrowed View
June 20 - October 3, 2004
With her intuitive gift for color and a sense of perfect tonal pitch, artist Connie Hayes evokes the essence of time and place in this series of paintings hat focus on the built and natural environments of Maine. Her work builds on the tradition of earlier painters like Fairfield Porter, Edward Hopper, Robert Henri, Rockwell Kent and George Bellows, all of whom celebrated the raw beauty of the rugged Maine coast and its classic New England buildings. Like them, she is a true plein air painter. Invigorated and inspired by the feel of the elements, she has painted out of doors in all types of weather producing stunning representations of islands, coasts, salt marshes, hinterlands, farm houses, town houses, suburban houses, village streets and city skylines. Through a mixture of adventurous color combinations and energetic brush strokes she creates a dynamic surface. "I use color psychology for a jolt and let the paint gesturally swim out of bounds" she says.
Art historian, Carl Little, in his essay for the book that accompanies the exhibition, says "Hayes emphasizes the emotions she experiences through sight. Like Joseph Albers or Sandy Skogland, she invents color relationships in order to disturb assumptions." In a series of small 10 x 10 inch paintings (a favored format), an acid yellow sky in Match, and a purple one in That's Exactly Right, (both from 1999) demonstrate this ability to manipulate color to heighten the impact of a particular time of day and type of weather. (right: Dish, Vinalhaven, 2001, oil on canvas. Private Collection)
In the spring of 1990, Hayes sent out cards to 50 acquaintances whose homes she had identified as having interesting views. She was looking for a quiet place to paint during the summer, and offered a painting of the site to each accommodating host. Thus began her "Borrowed View" project and the invitations over that, and subsequent summers, eventually included houses in Maine, Florida, New York, the West Coast, New Orleans and Europe. The resulting paintings brilliantly capture the "personality" of a home in lush, richly-textured interior and exterior perspectives. We sense the presence of the inhabitants through their possessions-odd pieces of furniture, stacks of books, drapes, glowing lamps, comfortable overstuffed sofas, an easy chair by a window with a view of the water. Of these portraits without people,
Carl Little writes, "Setting up temporary quarters with the ghosts of absent inhabitants and seeing new 'views' in some of the loveliest places in the world motivate Hayes. Even managing a peripatetic existence and negotiating unpredictable Nature encourage her to continued the Borrowed View project from year to year."
Connie Hayes was born in Maine, and has lived there most of her life. She received a B.F.A. from the Maine College of Art and a M.F.A. from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She spent a year of her graduate program studying in Italy. She has maintained a studio since 1974 and has supported herself exclusively through painting since 1993. In 1992 she was Interim Vice President and Dean of the Maine College of Art in Portland, where she had worked since 1982 in a variety of administrative positions including Director of Continuing Studies and Student Life and B.F.A. Foundation Program Coordinator.
Hayes' work is included in private and public collections throughout the U.S. and abroad. She has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions and has been a visiting artist at the Maine College of Art, the University of Southern Maine, San Francisco State University, Alfred University, New York and Bowdoin College, Maine.
Catalogue Introduction to Thoughts on Connie Hayes' Borrowed Views
The subtitle for this publication and accompanying exhibition at the Farnsworth Museum can have a number of interpretations, and probably requires some discussion. Throughout history many of the greatest artists have "borrowed" their views. Whether Renaissance masters borrowing from Classical antiquity; Manet introducing the Spanish Baroque to 19th Century French painting or Picasso and Matisse re-inventing each other's pictures, artists have always borrowed from other artists and often from themselves as earlier themes and ideas resurface in later works. This is not the same as Post-Modernism's spiraling devolution into the recesses of Deconstruction wherein the stance is often distanced and ironic references to the work of other artists become intellectual and solipsistic commentaries on culture and criticism. Hayes' borrowings, however, reflect an authentic urge to build on precedents that she cares about; ideas and forms that can be re-constituted into something personally meaningful and therefore new. Connie Hayes' paintings are squarely in this mainstream tradition of Western art and especially a kind of modernism that unashamedly borrows from its own and previous traditions. (right: Clamshell Alley # 2, 2000, oil on Canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Collection of the artist)
Connie Hayes, of course, is talking more concretely about borrowing views from numerous friends that have invited her to paint in and around their homes. She has been borrowing views for more than a decade. In this way she has created her own personal, free-form and ever-changing "artist-in-residence" program that has long been a staple of art education primarily through universities, colleges and museums.
Again, the term "borrowed" can refer to a variety of perspectives. For Hayes, views of other peoples' home and surroundings are entirely her own and filtered through the lens of her own esthetic interests in paint, surface, and color. It is a given that none of her patrons have ever seen the places in which they live in quite the way that Connie does. On the other hand, her landscapes and interiors pulse with a sense of being lived in by others. Fields are cultivated, lawns tended and interiors amiably cluttered with traces of everyday life-including the odd satellite dish. Since she borrows most her views during summer (for much of the nineties she taught full and part-time at the Maine College of Art), her paintings naturally have a high-keyed palette and energetic brushwork, echoing Maine's "high season" that has its own intensity and quickened rhythm, both in nature and culturally, driven by the suddenness of spring and the influx of tourists and "summer people." Light unifies and edits her views but it is the sense of touch that distinguishes these paintings and gives them an autobiographical quality. Moods vary with the light and weather, but there is a keen sense of the artist's hand mediating between abstraction and representation. We are aware that these are not precise views of specific places (although they are remarkable accurate) but, rather, paintings of particular places that she invests with topical decor and her own esthetic receptivity to color, abstract form, and texture. (right: Inside the Osprey, 1998, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches. Private Collection)
Her work, as Carl Little perceptively observes in the accompanying essay, recalls earlier artists working in Maine, especially Edward Hopper and Hopper's teacher, Robert Henri but also Rockwell Kent and Fairfield Porter. Her work also relates to a sizeable group of well-known contemporary artists, including Jamie and Andrew Wyeth, Neil Welliver, Alex Katz and Richard Estes, who find Maine conducive to representational painting without apology. However Hayes is, perhaps, most closely linked to artists working outside Maine including Jane Freilicher, Paul Resika, Wolf Kahn and April Gornik who have consistently produced visually ravishing landscape paintings in the face of critical disinterest or even scorn, at least, until fairly recently. Ironically, Post-Modernism, with its resistance to fixed esthetic criteria and with an a-critical embrace of stylistic diversity, has re-opened the doors to classic modernism and artists like Connie Hayes.
She is keenly aware that art audiences are also, vicariously, borrowing her own borrowed views. Seeing through the artist's eyes, viewers are allowed to connect their own memories and associations with views of places that are at once familiar and strange-and, ineffably, Maine. Simply and with deep conviction, Hayes loves to paint. She borrows-from her friends' windows, fields and coves and from her deep knowledge of art -- with a kind of intuitive grace and affection and thus gives back to us ownership of these lyrical, intimate and emotionally precise views.
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