An interview with Dennis Hayes IV:
1) Please give us a lil’ background info on yourself. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised outside of Buffalo New York (in the woods). Went to art school at Alfred University (in the woods) and then moved to the bustling metropolis of Detroit. Bustling to be the most corrupt city in the states, but remember, Washington D.C. is not in a state. I’ve been living in the Detroit area working in the auto industry as a sculptor for General Motors for just over 9 years.
2) If I came to your area, what would we do / where would you take me?
If you came to Michigan I would first take you to the Henry Ford Museum. It is the most super rad fun awesome collection of American artifacts such as trains, tractors, transistors, toys, time periods, thimbles, you name it. They have the Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion Home which I find to be the icing on the cake. If time permits I would take you down near Zug Island to show you where they shot a ton of the scenes from Robocop and then bring you back up thru the city. Hit up the different neighborhoods, the Heidelberg Project, maybe go to Hamtramck for some polish food or hit up the Dakota Inn for some good German food. They are some of the Diamonds in the D’s rough. Then onward threw the cultural corridor with the likes of Detroit Institute of Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and Detroit Film Theatre and up the first paved roadway past the factory of where Ford built the Model T and up to the grounds of Cranbrook Academy to see the Museum and the architecture of Eliel Saarinen. Sound like a date?
3) Seeing that you went to art school, what are your thoughts on art school in general?
It’s unfortunate that I would appreciate it more now than when I attended, but overall it was a great experience. Alfred at the time was a good school with a ton of great professors and I learned a ton. A large number of them have moved on or have retired so I cannot speak for it now as a school, but overall the vibe there was really rad. There is not a lot to do there besides work on your art and to kick a few back at the end of the night with all the artists because of its rural location and the cold weather. It was a great having that community of ideals and personalities all working together. I focused on sculpture and on analog video in school which I am glad I did. I thought it was pretty neat that Alfred had one of the oldest experimental video studios in the country. It was a great place for me to grow as an artist and individual.
4) What’s your earliest memory involving art or creating art?
I remember being real little and playing on the beach making super minimal very abstract sand castles then introducing some sort of performance art that involved a destruction dance. I also remember making macaroni paintings in Pre. I think my mom might even still have some of them. That said the coolest thing that I remember about being a whippersnapper and creating art was when a buddy and I in 3rd and 4th grade drew this epic battle scene on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper, and taped the sides together. The battle ended up being huge. I think it spanned the distance of my class room like 27 times. It had to be at least a ream of paper. Best collaboration ever. It was a mid evil theme but I think a few monster trucks and tanks made it into the uber long drawing. I would love to know whatever happened to that.
5) When are you most productive / when do you normally work on art?
I make art on the night shift. I tuck the kids in then have sometime to hang out with my wife before she retires for the evening then I hit the studio for a few hours. It fluctuates depending on workload in any one of the three areas of duties (family, day job, art) in a given day. Then on Friday and Saturday nights I usually do the all night deal, til, say 4 or 5 then get to sleep in til ten… Unless I have to coach soccer, then have to wake up a bit earlier.
6) Tell us something about yourself that someone would never guess in their wildest dreams.
Favorite pizza toppings Bacon and Banana Peppers. Seriously though, I guess one thing would be when I was like 13 I fell off of a 30 foot cliff onto a frozen river and had about another 10 kids fall on top of me there was like a total of 15 that fell. Granted I was dressed like a yeti and there was about a foot of snow on the ice. So there was some cushion, but it still hurt like the dickens as I was the cushion for the 10 that landed on top of me. I think 3 of the kids had to head to the hospital. I came out pretty unscathed with just a bruised femur and was really sore all over. Moral of the story is don’t race down a wooded hill without knowing what is at the bottom.
7) Are you reading anything right now?
I am reading “The Beginners Guide to Constructing the Universe” by Michael Schneider, “I am America (So Can You)” by Stephen Colbert and just finished Ron Paul’s book “The Revolution (A Manifesto)”. All of them are pretty good.
8) What’s your favorite color and why?
I’ve always liked Carolina Blue or Sky Blue. Not sure why. Maybe it’s because they’re cool calming colors that have some zing and excitement.
9) Do you listen to music while painting/drawing? If so, do you have a current favorite that inspires?
I do at times, sometimes it’s just silence sometime its lectures. Lately I’ve been listening to Janis Joplin, Dylan, MIA, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Deep Purple, a bunch of metal and Classical music… Been trying to learn some stuff about classical. It’s a genre that I am not too familiar and have always had the interest to, so that time has come I suppose.
10) Please describe your process for our patrons – what all goes into the creation of one of your works?
First off to make my sub straights that I build to paint on I go out and snag disposed of lumber preferably 2 x 4’s or 2 x 6’s. Usually I get these out of houses that are being remodeled or from the piles of abandoned houses that once stood here in Detroit. I then have to comb over the boards to make sure that all the nails are pulled and mark any area that still has metal in the wood. I then begin cutting the boards down to size. For a 12×15 inch painting I use a template of 2 3x9s 3 3x6s and 8 3x3s. I then biscuit join all end grain joints of the blocks and the complete perimeter of the future sub straight. That is followed by the gluing of all the joints using wood glue and then clamp. Once sub straight is a solid parquet I then need to make a level surface. I have a router jig that I set up and essentially use it like an overhead planer. Once both sides are taking down to a flat surface I sand it smooth leaving some of the wood chatter and/or other character flaws then I harden the surface with a layer of shellac then at that point I begin to lay down my backgrounds using salvaged materials such as latex paint, spray paint, tar, or something else that needs to be rescued from filling the dumps. Then I take my sketches and decide which sketches will work with the parquet at hand and then start to execute using layers of shellac, India inks, latex, tar, and a little bit of white gouache. I do use some water colors for washes and as a pigment boost with some of the latex paints. About half my water colors where snagged second hand as well. I try to run a pretty environmentally conscious studio. I do need to obtain some materials via the store on occasion, such as shellac but shellac is a all natural product made essentially from insect feces which is mostly just tree sap mixed with alcohol. UV protection is then applied for archival purposes.
11) If you had to explain your work to a stranger, how would you do it?
I usually start with “I paint birds”. I hand them a business card with an image on it and then I tell them that they are portraits of a generalized individual that fits a specific stereotype, i.e. Eagle = Politician. Usually that stereotype has some characteristics that are also found in the bird that is portrayed. The geometry in the background and in the branches is usually symbolic and/or incorporating aspects and ideals regarding sacred geometry. All the layers are meant to intertwine to become one in the form of a statement or comment on culture.
12) Please tell us a bit more about the background and origins of Sacred Geometry, which I know factors heavily in your works and creation process.
It has been growing in importance in my work as of late as I begin to explore and learn about it, but the basic explanation is in nature we find a divine design which incorporate structures, shapes and patterns that exist on infinite levels in our cosmos from the microscopic to the Milky Way. The structures, shapes and patterns all follow geometrical archetypes that are the building blocks of the universe. The Sacred Geometry which is believed to have been known thousands of years ago as a pagan religion but just now being revisited, is thought to be the foundation of spiritual energy, mathematics, science and matter and encompasses some of the ideals of Transdentalism. Some of the important “laws” or “rules” of Sacred Geometry lie within the point, the monad (circle), the Dyad (to points form a line), the Vesica Piscis, Metatron’s Cube, Phi and the Flower of Life. I feel that it is extremely important to have an understanding and acknowledge the basics of the universe that we occupy. I feel it’s an ancient knowledge that has been taking for granted and has been forgotten as a whole even though it is implemented in certain aspects modern day culture. However it has never been directly discussed or taught to the masses. I have been studying it in attempt to bring another level of order and symbolic meaning to my work.
13) Favorite artist (living or dead) and what makes them special to you?
That’s a tough one to just pick one. I keep coming back to Charlie Harper. I love his work from early to late, the way his work progressed and his commercial work in print was quite admirable as well. His paintings are so simple at first glance in form and color breaks, but his composition of the shapes that make up his subjects are just genius. Walton Ford is up there as well because his compositional stories are so well tuned to dark comedy while using a naturalistic approach. Either way I feel that we live in a pretty important age regarding the arts. The past 100 years has been like an explosion of ideas, mediums, influences and styles even though I believe a lot of it is crap, it’s still a lot to digest and comprehend.
14) What have you got coming up in terms of shows and projects?
I will be in a group show at Distinction Gallery in December that is being curated by Kelly Vivanco. I am beginning to line up some shows for next year and beyond but first I am looking forward to working on some sculpture ideas, catching up on commissions and bombin’ the studio with a new coat of paint and a thinning out the mess.
15) What are you doing right after this interview?
I am going to try to catch some zzzzzz‘s.