Hugh Hayden, Surrealist Sculptor, Addresses the Education Discussion

“Just check out your eyes,” the sculptor Hugh Hayden warned as he circumnavigated the wood faculty desk he experienced built from cedar logs, their branches however hooked up. The limbs erupted from the seat and desktop, in all directions — strange, unruly, alive.

Hayden, 38, was in the final stages of manufacturing at Showman Fabricators in Bayonne, N.J., finishing his most ambitious challenge to day. “Brier Patch,” an art installation opening Jan. 18 in New York’s Madison Square Park, assembles 100 newly minted college desks into out of doors “classrooms” throughout 4 lawns. The major grouping morphs floor up from an orderly grid of ideal-angled chairs into a wild tangle of likely eye-scratching branches intersecting midair.

“He’s at the same time questioning possibility and inequity in the American training procedure,” Brooke Kamin Rapaport, deputy director and main curator at the Madison Sq. Park Conservancy, mentioned, supplying an interpretation of the “brier patch,” a reference to the fictional Br’er Rabbit stories as well as to a thorny crop of vegetation. The clearly show opens amid a storm of debates roiling classrooms around curriculum alterations addressing systemic racism and regardless of whether to keep on being open amid the Omicron surge.

Hayden, who is from Dallas, analyzed architecture at Cornell and worked for a decade in that subject just before obtaining his M.F.A. from Columbia in 2018 and going on to a total-time career as a sculptor. Doing the job mostly in wooden by hand, he reconstructs vernacular objects in the American landscape — a picnic desk, an Adirondack chair, a suburban fence, a university desk — subverting their utility and that means by offering them human features.

“The objects themselves are in changeover between a cultural item and a normal object,” the artist Mark Dion, a professor and mentor to Hayden at Columbia, mentioned of these startling hybrid varieties. “He harkens back to the best of the Surrealists like Man Ray and Meret Oppenheim, wherever the objects are actually unsettling. They oscillate in this pretty uncanny earth. It is a chair and it’s not a chair.”

At Showman, Hayden shown how his logs, salvaged from the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, are break up and planed into usable planks that however protect their long branches, defying conventional lumber manufacturing. “My wood is like bone-in rooster, with the foot even — you are still looking at this is a tree,” he explained. The result appears to be pretty much magical yet “there’s no smoke and mirrors,” he famous, interested in shifting how people today may consider about an every day piece of wood.

The next working day, the artist, dressed in a camouflage searching jacket and cap, led his visitor via a capacious new studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, his large Ibizan hound vying for focus. Hayden moved here in Oct from a smaller place in the South Bronx to aid keep rate with his ballooning exhibition program, which in 2021 involved solo gallery exhibits at Clearing in Brussels and Lisson in New York.

He wended his way all-around a tall mass of Bald Cypress tree pieces sourced from a swamp in Louisiana. One particular of these boughs had terribly scratched his cornea in November as he was racing to end carving a sculpture for a museum study, “Boogey Adult men,” at the ICA Miami (by April 17).

He has been intrigued during his vocation in the plan of blending into American culture. At the ICA Miami, the artist camouflages the surface area of a vintage Burberry trench coat with the bark of a tree only the collar and distinctive lining peek out. “Burberry is this luxury item, a way of turning out to be component of a bigger group, with prosperity staying a way of accessing that,” Hayden claimed.

The artist hangs the piece on a coat stand, with the garment’s arms splayed like a scarecrow. It is positioned in the vicinity of his to start with significant piece fabricated in stainless steel: a police automobile hooded in a white sheet with cartoonlike holes cutout for eyes. “If you have the ideal look, you won’t have any trouble,” Hayden said of the pointed juxtaposition between the two performs, contacting his Burberry coat “almost an invisibility cloak.”

“The thought that tree bark can be a metaphor for an knowledge of skin is 1 of the driving themes in the perform,” explained Alex Gartenfeld, creative director of the ICA. “Part of Hugh’s get the job done remaining anthropomorphic is that it’s relatable. There is a incredibly human quality that alerts that the challenges it is contending with are about you and me.”

Hayden’s set up of school desks at Madison Sq. Park summons associations for anybody who’s at any time sat in a classroom. “Brier Patch” at the same time resembles an orchard and a thicket challenging to inhabit.

“Education is portion of this highway map to the American desire,” he explained. His matrix of branches indicates the barriers to a path ahead for many younger men and women, regardless of whether from uneven distribution of sources in general public educational institutions or the load of college or university university student financial loans.

Hayden was drawn to the 19th-century “Uncle Remus” folktale, passed on by way of oral tradition, in which Br’er Rabbit escapes the jaws of Br’er Fox by navigating a thing seemingly inaccessible the brier patch essentially becomes a haven for the wily rabbit. The artist’s branching desks could be a variety of perch, conjuring creative imagination and interconnectedness. “It’s open to the viewer,” he stated, “imagining themselves in this finding a seat.”

Education is a subject matter of deep individual significance. Hayden’s mother and father ended up academics in the Dallas Unbiased College District and set a premium on his and his brother’s academic results. “We experienced to give 110 %,” claimed the artist, who attended gifted and proficient courses and a arduous Jesuit significant university.

Even though artistic, Hayden did not know artwork could be a occupation. Landscaping tasks in his family’s backyard pointed him towards architecture at Cornell. It was not right until he was released to Derrick Adams at an opening, the first specialist artist he’d achieved generating art about present-day existence, that he felt inspired to try placing his tips about the environment into form. Hayden’s taxidermied heads of North American buffalo and mountain goats, supplied a Black id with the addition of cornrow extensions, received him a residency at Reduced Manhattan Group Council in 2011 and established him on a class towards Columbia whilst supporting himself as an architect.

Alex Logsdail, Lisson’s executive director, observed Hayden’s perform at White Columns in 2018, did a studio take a look at two times afterwards at Columbia and began planning Hayden’s very first show at Lisson that yr, right after he graduated.

“It’s quite unconventional to see an artist and be so afflicted that you have to do some thing instantly,” said Logsdail, who has marketed Hayden’s get the job done to the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Whitney Museum.

At the peak of the Black Lives Issue protests in 2020, Hayden approached both equally his galleries about working collectively on graduate college scholarships to make the art earth extra available to men and women of shade. “You possibly have to acquire on debt or come from a privileged posture,” he reported.

Funded by the sale of his artwork at Clearing and donations by some of Lisson’s directors, as very well as by Hayden, the Solomon B. Hayden Fellowships — named for the artist’s father, who died in 2014 — will partly help tuition for two Black learners at Columbia, in visible arts and art background, in perpetuity.

Hayden will enable curate as very well as take part in a team exhibition “Black Atlantic,” produced by the General public Artwork Fund and opening in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Could 17. At first a solo chance, Hayden requested that “we grow the platform we experienced supplied him to other younger artists of colour,” said Daniel S. Palmer, the curator of the General public Artwork Fund. They picked Leilah Babirye, Dozie Kanu, Tau Lewis and Kiyan Williams to engage with the internet site and every other.

Hayden designs to present “The Gulf Stream,” a picket boat with a whale’s rib cage carved within. The artist stated he was visually referring to two famed pictures of Black everyday living in The us — Winslow Homer’s 1899 painting “The Gulf Stream,” with a Black determine in distress on a boat surrounded by sharks, and Kerry James Marshall’s 2003 reaction, demonstrating a Black household taking pleasure in sailing .

For Hayden, it is one more artwork that wrestles with past, present and long run in uneasy means, as “Brier Patch” also does. “It’s a tale of becoming thrown overboard,” he stated, “and reinterpreting that as a new possibility.”


Hugh Hayden: Brier Patch

Opens Jan. 18 by means of April 24, Madison Sq. Park, Broadway-Madison Ave., involving East 23 Street and East 26 Avenue (212) 520-7600 madisonsquarepark.org.

Hugh Hayden: Boogey Gentleman

By April 17, ICA Miami, 305-901-5272 icamiami.org.

Stefani

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