Artist displays social justice work in new exhibit | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Artist displays social justice work in new exhibit

February 27, 2021 - 9:01 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Stephen L. Hayes Jr. is an artist who takes on everything he can explore. He sculpts, blacksmiths, welds, makes prints and drawings, carves and even weaves.

The Durham-based artist known for a focus on social justice and incorporating historical context said he tries “just about anything I get my hands on.”

“I love trying to give things new meaning. I don’t have a preferred medium,” said Hayes, whose work will be on display at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in Charlotte from March 5-April 24 in an exhibit titled “Beyond Any Means.”

Hayes, whose “Cash Crop” installation has toured for nearly a decade at galleries and museums, including the Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, said he frequently explores America’s use — or misuse — of Black bodies, along with capitalism and consumerism.

At Elder Gallery, the work on display will add to those themes with a sense of the danger that lies in allowing ourselves to be manipulated by imagery, gallery owner Sonya Pfeiffer said.

A large multimedia installation, titled “5 lbs.,” that’s comprised of dozens of individual circular works, features hands and arms cast from the hands of real people, including children.

“When you first look at the installation, it looks pretty. And then you see that they’re gold bullets, and the hands are grasping for bling, grasping for beauty, grasping for gold,” she said.

Hayes’ piece titled “Fancy Legs” hearkens back to his original discussion of the treatment of Black bodies.

“If you look closely, each of them has a noose around its neck. He takes it back to the original slave trade,” Pfeiffer said.

An opening reception will be held March 5 from 6-8 p.m. A meet-the-artist event, including Charlotte studio artist Cynthia Flaxman Frank, will take place March 26 from 6-8 p.m., but reservations are full. Entrance will be limited with designated time slots to maintain COVID-19 social distancing guideline, and face masks will be required.

UPCOMING PROJECTS

Hayes, 37, spent time in Charlotte while in residence from April 2015 to May 2016 at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. He also had residencies at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, the 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia and at Halcyon Arts Lab, Washington, DC.

Since his time in Charlotte, Hayes has kept an active pace with a packed calendar. In early February, the Gibbes Museum in Charleston celebrated Hayes for winning its 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art in 2020. His work will be on display at the museum for about a year.

Hayes, who earned a bachelor’s degree at North Carolina Central University and a master of fine arts from Savannah College of Art and Design, is also joining the faculty full time at Duke University in July. He teaches sculpture and drawing there now as a visiting instructor in the university’s Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies.

Meanwhile, he’s working on an abstract piece for Stewart Creek Greenway in Charlotte that’s being funded by the Arts & Science Council. Look for that to pop up there along with some benches around August.

Yet another project has him casting the faces of descendants of Black soldiers and re-enactors for a bronze sculpture that will sit outside the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington.

The piece honouring the U.S. Colored Troops who fought for the Union in the Battle of Forks Road will feature 11 soldiers in battle formation and includes space to engrave the names of those who served. It’s slated to be unveiled in November after a COVID-19-related delay.

“This sculpture is pretty different than most you see out there. Their lineage was a part of this history,” Hayes said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2021
The Associated Press

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