Public Collection announced

My work was selected for purchase by the city of Nashville & Metro Nashville Arts Commission's along with so many great Nashville-based artists. Artwork will join the city’s public collection in Nashville’s historic courthouse building. 

Essay/Review on Keeper by Erica CIccarone

Late in his career and at the height of abstract expressionism, painter Philip Guston made a radical shift from abstraction to representational works. The often-cartoonish paintings were deeply personal, expressing angst and struggle––but also, strangely, hope. “So when the 1960s came along,” Guston told the New York Post in 1977, “I was feeling split, schizophrenic. The war, what was happening to America, the brutality of the world. What kind of man am I, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything—and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue?”

In 2017, the sentiment might translate to this: As both the executive and legislative branches of our government move to limit civil liberties and environmental protections and each week brings a new invitation to a protest or sit-in, how does the socially engaged artist justify the often-solitary nature of making work? Guston’s question—“What kind of man am I?”—is analogous to the more current language of recognizing privilege, which I talk to artists about all the time.

or painter Jodi Hays, there was a point where she started making work about how she saw the world. This included the boundaries of urban landscape: nets, construction barriers, fences––hard angles brought to bear in paintings that slip between representation and abstraction. After the 2016 election, she began using red ink. Its contexts––editing, alarm signals, blood––and the color’s political party association, speak to feelings of separation and a desire for revision.

ays’s new work uses that monochromatic palette of diluted red ink for paintings on paper and canvas that are hyper-local. Inspired by walks in her East Nashville neighborhood, Hays considered how her work in the studio could reflect and give back to her immediate community, thus bridging a gap between her backyard studio and the streets and alleys that connect her to others, regardless of their income, social status, or political leanings. 

The series was exhibited at Red Arrow Gallery in November. Titles have always been important to Hays. She long kept scraps of paper scrawled with them in a cigar box, now translated to a note on her smartphone. She wants titles to act as entry points for viewers, a way to open a door and nudge us toward a conversation, even if it’s just internal. She titled the Red Arrow show Keeper. It’s inspired to a large extent by two community members who, until recently, Hays hadn’t met.

For years, she’s called them “sister walkers.” The two elderly women walk around the neighborhood, one slightly ahead, the other close behind, her hands on the small of her back. Hays began photographing them when she was out on the porch and on walks with her kids. They became like animated elements of urban landscape. “I am my brother’s keeper” is the inherent message in the show’s title, and the sister walkers become symbolic keepers of both each other and Hays’s sense of place. At the same time, walking has a rich history in Nashville because of the Civil Rights movement, when walking and marching were a form of resistance.

Other symbols unfurl in the paintings. Trellises, porches, fences, gates, and signs––like the letters ERS from the blazing-red Hunters Custom Automotive sign on E. Trinity Lane––make the neighborhood recognizable to those who live nearby, but the regular markings of a neighborhood will be familiar to all. In a small way, Hays also addresses the economic disparity that makes art accessible to some but not all: She sold $15 prints at the opening, along with a gorgeous $30 artist book published by the local independent publisher Extended Play. And she eventually did meet the sister walkers to give them a painting and invite them to Keeper. They came, probably more curious than anything, and recognized the specific way they walk and interact with their neighborhood.

To get back to Guston, Hays has sold me on the idea that it’s possible to think of painting as resistance. Making art during uncertain times is an act of faith, of hope that we can do better and that we can influence the arc of justice, in however small a way. In a conversation I had with Hays for BURNAWAY last year, she said, “ . . . making your small mark in the midst of a larger world fraught with decay or cynicism––that’s hopeful.” So is making a daily commitment to being a good neighbor, and trying again if we fail.

Native, Artist Feature

Jodi Hays is a Nashville painter whose work is in the permanent collections of the J. Crew Company, Tennessee State Museum, and Nashville International Airport, among others. She’s had residencies with The National Parks of America, The Cooper Union School of Art, and Vermont Studio Center, and she is the former assistant director at the Cambridge Art Association (Massachusetts). In 2005, Hays relocated from Boston to East Nashville, where she helped establish the COOP Gallery. She was a professor and curator at Tennessee State University before opening Dadu, a pop-up gallery. She currently lives in East Nashville with her husband, Felix, three children (Gus, Eames, and Cleo), and polydactyl cat, Lefty. Her upcoming exhibit, Keeperwill show November 11 through December 3 at The Red Arrow Gallery.

Review, Tennessean, Melinda Baker

Nashville painter Jodi Hays works in the tradition of abstraction, blending contrasting hues, stripes, grids and geometric shapes that evoke cityscapes and architectural forms.  Her complex canvases are in essence an exploration of place, particularly the constructed environments we’ve shaped and that shape us, individually and communally.  

In “Keeper,” her latest exhibition at Red Arrow Gallery, she traverses a red-washed borderland between abstraction and representation, tracing the physical topography of her East Nashville neighborhood and reflecting on the psychological, social and economic realities that bind or divide it.  
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?  
I knew from an early age that I wanted to pursue art. I mostly saw art in books (my Mom is a retired art teacher) and always had a project going from our supplies. I am from Arkansas, a state that hosted fruitful nature play and reading time as a kid.
What inspired “Keeper?”     
Rebecca Solnit said, “Landscape’s most crucial condition is considered to be space, but it’s deepest theme is time.” My interests for years have been rooted in landscape and our relationship to our shared built environment. Painting is such a compelling medium for it’s relationship to both time and land.  After all, hue is pigment from the earth.   
The title “Keeper” comes from a small painting I made in 2016 of the same name. I began to think of painter as “Keeper,” one who chooses and selects how to process her world through a studio practice, keeping some prompts and editing out others.
East Nashville has changed a lot since I moved here in 2005, but a constant are two sisters, Barbara and Lois. They are not only delightful neighbors, but they have become a deep and effectual allegory for my own painting practice: the long-hauling, the discipline, the community, the presence, the stripes, the prayer.

What questions about place most intrigue you?
Maybe Herman Melville wrote is best in Moby Dick, “It’s not down in any map, true places never are.” There is potential for a place to conjure memory and thought, to prompt feeling and connection, to be worth memorializing, protesting, revering, anthologizing and recovering through an equally compelling discipline of painting. Landscape can channel a productive nostalgia, if tempered right.
Grids, fences, gates, boundaries, and walls.  What concepts do these structures reflect in your work?  
My interest in these prompts is rooted in formal concerns, where marks sit perpendicular to one another on a plane.  Around 2006, I began making paintings influenced by construction sites, stopping to take note of festoons (celebration) and caution tape (alarm) and the surrounding context. In my grandest of hopes, these works that leverage imagery of surveying and marking can open timely and nuanced conversations on division and exclusion, power and politics, which are so deeply needed now.

You used a lot of red ink in this body of work. Why?
I am no stranger to color, but also have gone through periods of grisaille and monochrome palette choices. The red ink originated from daily paintings I made on paper with a color that communicated signal and alarm. I began using red ink after the 2016 election for all its reductive and associative contexts; writing and editing, broadsides, alarm signals and blood.

In your artist’s statement, what do you mean by the ‘agency of painting’?
Though I am firmly committed for the rest of my life to making paintings, I am also interested in the potential for the act of art-making or the art object itself to reach into our lives and send us towards hope and determination. Can painting leverage that agency, that voice, that power? If each one of us loved one thing so dearly that we would spend hours towards that excellence, that could change the world. This is high-minded, yes, but we have so much to do in the world and better get to work.

Eyes Like Enemies, curated by Jodi Hays

Eyes Like Enemies: New work by Mark Brosseau and Brian Edmonds

Curator's Statement (Jodi Hays for Dadu)

Rilke wrote: 'These trees are magnificent, but even more magnificent is the sublime and moving space between them, as though with their growth it too increased.  -Gaston Bachelard, 
Poetics of Space

This exhibition brings together two painters whose work adds to the discourse on abstraction and the nature of painting. I have enjoyed thinking about their work in this context, at the Packing Plant, in a small room of east Side Project Space, sharing doors with neighbors and winding around an art-filled cabin. Their works force us to look inward, recalling memories of Crayola paint and Pong. These painters allow for an interiority to form between the work and the viewer, creating a triangulation of work/memory/viewer. Sight is not the only way to enter paintings; considerations of space, history and memory give the viewer a broader experience to bring to seeing/experiencing the work. 

Alan Greenspan said (2008) of his misunderstanding of capitalism, “I discovered a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works.” Paintings by Brosseau and Edmonds occupy a place in abstraction that leans on titles, references discovery and relies on research that can belie an only-visual read. Edmond’s titles, for this show, are pulled from those that construct a narrative of darkness and interiority (Erasure, God Night, Attic Black). Brosseau’s paintings rely on language/titles speaking to spaces riddled with ambiguity (Toxic, Camouflaged, Disparate). Within the logic of making a painting, these two have found a system, flaws and all.
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