||Rachel Hayes, born in 1977, Independence,
MO. Earned her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, and an MFA
from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Hayes’ artistic practice is a blend of painterly, sculptural, and environmental concerns. In the mode of a painter whose medium is fabric, Hayes’ process involves endless experimentation with the formal qualities of color and line. To create a piece entitled Palate Expansion (2003), for example, Hayes stitched together 40 rainbow-striped vinyl placemats from a discount store, and then overlaid them with her own color palette of translucent vinyls and fabrics in order to achieve dynamic visual effects. As she works more frequently with the medium of installation, however, Hayes is increasingly energized by the potential of her work to intervene in a space and suggest physical pathways for the viewer.
Conceptually, Hayes is keenly aware of the loaded history of her medium—that is, the role of fabric as a signifier of gender, fashion, decoration and so much else. For Hayes, though, this rich and often-revised history brings as much opportunity as challenge—to sort through, for example, descriptions of her work as ‘feminine’ and ‘seductive’—labels about which the artist, and more generally, the art world, remain ambivalent.
For her part, Hayes is drawn to fabric as a medium of infinite mutability. Whether her work speaks more as abstract painting or as minimalist-inspired sculpture is, at any given moment, up to Hayes. But Hayes, in turn, prefers to leave much to the individual experience of the viewer. “I revel in the different interpretations of my art,” says Hayes—
and so do her viewers.
- excerpt from an essay by Stacy Switzer for the Charlotte Foundation Awards