Dove Hays

July, 2019

Brooklyn, New York

Wave, 2018

Have any of you guys heard the phrase, walking on clouds? The feeling so ethereal, cushiony, and comfortable, like the whole world’s noise becomes a faraway echo, and all that’s left to hear is a constant vibration, a fuzz in the ear, a white noise. No, not the refrigerator buzz, a more organic one. That’s how I felt entering Dove’s studio.

 

There is the pink cloud syndrome people refer to, as the period of euphoria as they first recover from an addiction, before the reality hits. I’d like to make a comparison to that with entering Dove’s work. The phrase walking on clouds don’t come from thin air, nor does the pink cloud syndrome. They exude an underlying metaphor of a short-lived moment of happiness. One may see a parallel correlation between that of Dove’s work and ephemera, but to me, her work feels like a steady act of contemplation, the presence of rumination in both her paintings and her practice.

More about creating an experiential interaction

With these current works, there isn’t an immediate recognizable subject, why is that?

The subject matter is the act of contemplation, like meditation. The titles come last and hint at the forms, but I’m not trying to strictly depict anything, but more about creating an experiential interaction.

I noticed that you also have sculptural works, I love the materiality of them, how do they differ from your painting works?

Most of the sculptural work is a few years older. Creating the sculptures was intensely laborious, and very time-consuming. They are made from layers of plaster-like a paper-mâché process - and then sanded and then painted. They would take a couple of months to make but the objectness of the sculptures was so seductive and gratifying. Then there was a turning point for me, after the election in 2016, I decided that the struggle was not within the studio, but outside. I really needed a flow of work that wasn’t going to tear me down, but instead, allow me to have more power and time and energy. So I turned back towards painting, where I started my artist’s life.

 

Do you see your work now in a transitional period?

Yes, in retrospect, I can see all my work as a transition. I’m in a life transition this past year or so being in the studio full-time now and it’s shocking how I get revelations all of a sudden and in succession. But the challenge for me now as a painter is how to communicate the feeling I want to evoke in two-dimensional form. I guess that has always been the challenge.

I decided that the struggle was not within the studio, but outside

Vessels: amphora, 2016

Vessels: bottles, 2016

The paintings for me, evoke an outer-worldly, almost extraterrestrial feeling. Almost like walking on clouds, or on the moon. And when seen altogether, they give off a vibration or a mood. I think it has a lot to do with the palette.

Yes, the palette is so subtle, and on a phone or a computer monitor, it’s so hard to convey the texture and the subtle shifts in color that exist in real life. I’ve come to realize how much I depend on the colors and my specific palette in my work. Which is a huge difference from the sculptural work, because even though it’s been the same colors, there was so much more to the physical materiality and I had the extra dimension! But when it’s a painting, it is seen as what it is, and color comes to the forefront. However, for me, the new work is still very much about materials, because I make a lot of the paint, use a particular ratio of cold wax to mattify, and I’m very specific about the canvases I use.

 

Wow! That’s so surprising for me to hear because it’s hard not to notice the color at first glance.

How did you feel when people were noticing those things?

I felt very insecure because even though I have been painting my whole life, I have only recently returned to it as a primary part of my practice. I feel like I identified as a sculptor for so long.

Road, 2019

Plinth, 2018

How has your work evolved, how did you come to explore the idea of meditation and even this palette?

The palette came out of a sculpture I made when I was finishing my grad program, I had been making these beautiful-but-abject kinetic sculptures that came out of a very reactive place in me. I figured out that I could make work from what I wanted to feel and not only from my lived experience. So I started working with colors, surfaces, and forms that made me feel still and quiet.

 

How were you able to differentiate that work was not what you wanted to do?

It wasn’t a sustainable practice, kinetic sculptures coming from an intuitive practice just created a lot of easily breakable parts. I was just teaching myself how to like solder from Youtube videos. And a lot of the work was coming out of a place of stress, which isn’t a place to spend a lot of time in, and also feel fulfilled.

I do a lot of writing, and I know how to make, that’s the most innate part for me, but the content has always been the challenging part. So I made a list like pros and cons for a class where I wrote "MATTE", in all capital letters, and crossed out the word "Shiny" and on from there. Then I developed my palette through making my sculptures, wrapping fabric in plaster, sanding the surface, then painting with very matte gouache.

I think it's different for each artist, for some, the content comes first and then the making, I think that everybody struggles to make in their own way. Which is what makes art so interesting. Is writing still a big part of your practice?

Yes, my sketchbook is mostly text. And I’ve done the “Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron - I’m a big self-help person. So part of that method is writing “morning pages” meaning three pages the first thing, right when you wake up. You just write in long-hand and finish the three pages in however long it takes, you get it out on paper. I don’t do that every morning, but when I feel blocked, I do my morning pages. It is really effective, and I also practice transcendental meditation, so both of those things first thing in the morning really does it for me.

How do you know when your work is done, what is that process like?

I usually have 4-6 layers, my process is really intuitive, I wish I had an answer to that, but I don’t. I sometimes envy people who know what their end product is going to look like.

That is not always a good thing though.

Yeah, sometimes it is clear as day, but other times I'll just see an idea. But they take a long time, and I use cold wax to take the shine out of the oil paint but also takes forever to dry. 

But I really embrace a slow process. I feel like everybody of work I’ve ever made has been a slow process.

 

Is the process more important to you than the end results, because not everyone can see that you’ve gone through so many iterations and layers.

For me, that is the work! The process. I think it’s because I so covet being an artist, that my favorite part is the making.

I really embrace a slow process

How do you want your audience to interact with your work?

I want them to feel calm…calm is not quite the right word, it’s not provocative in an aggressive way, it’s provocative in a soft way. I want them to feel an overall feeling, not necessarily see an image. There are definitely evocative forms, and the titles bring out content that may not be overtly present, but I think the experience of “feeling” settles in.

Making a brave interpretation, I suggested the illusion of bacon on clouds, food, and even sexual tension. But they also give a dreamy feel, a slow transcendence. As much as the body of works is flat, they are all images, that one can easily enter. A space of quiet serenity. 

 

Afloat. 

 

Speaking with Dove, the way she spoke, practices the act of grouping thoughts into words, she had so much to express, that the meaning of language and the act of speaking became foreign and laborious. That even her speaking, seemed like an act of exploring contemplation, so similar to the way she paints, and her painting rituals as well. I asked her what a potential solo show title would be.

 

No judgement here… these are some ideas… 

 

And this was my favorite one.

 

“Just because you’re yelling, doesn’t make you right. 

Wind, 2019

Photos taken by Cookin' Up Magazine, July 2019

Artwork images courtesy of the artist

https://dovehays.com/