It has been a few months since our last installment of GALLERY500’s Emerging Artist Series. With this addition, we want to present an artist that is not only a newcomer to the local art scene, but also an artist with a unique point of view, with a unique story to tell. Ruth Hayden is just that artist. Her How it Feels series, currently on display at GALLERY500 offers an in-depth look at one artist’s physical and emotional experience of this new normal that began back in early 2020 with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hayden communicated as a true artist, creating this visual diary for viewers to experience.
In honesty, I have been infatuated with Hayden’s work since I first had the chance to see it in the series' infancy back in April 2020. Knowing the artist on a personal level, I was intrigued with the work as a reflection of the artist. The series allowed myself, as the viewer, to better understand Hayden, the artist, not only as an artist, but as a person…a human-being. In creating the current exhibition, The New Normal: Art & the Pandemic, I first turned to Hayden’s series to showcase.
Hayden is a true artist in the sense that she practices all types of artistry, from classical piano, to photography, to painting. Earning a B.A. in Business and Fine Art, Hayden decided fairly early on that her heart belongs to the arts. Originally from New Hampshire, Hayden spent many years in New York City, ultimately moving to St. Augustine, Florida, in order to follow her heart and focus on creating art. She has a keen eye for color and perspective, allowing the artist to capture beautiful and unique images through the camera lens. She was fortunate to collaborate with Florida artist Jamie Travis who was so captivated by one such image that he recaptured the photograph in paint. Some of her favorite artists include Monet and Degas, in addition to Mondrian, which is nearly obvious when considering her How it Feels series. The artist argues that understanding the foundation of classical form is essential to understanding and having the ability to deconstruct structures to their simplest form of shape, line and color.
How it Feels illustrates the feeling of isolation many of us felt during the pandemic. Hayden highlights the negative space of the canvas, that feeling of being alone and separated from those closest to us. The orange-yellow ball prominent in the series represent the protagonist, the viewer, the artist. The lines represent the pressures and tensions of this new world, the adjustments and anxieties we felt in various ways while attempting to adjust to the changes. Hayden, who I would describe as uniquely emotionally self aware, took this new alone time to create. While Hayden, as many of us do, would have sought the comfort of friends and family, she was forced to remain separate from her safety net, so to speak. Of course, technology allowed many of us to converse with our loved ones, conversations cannot replace physical closeness. The works in the series depict the yellow-orange ball surrounded by lines, but never gaining contact. Although connected in some ways, the artist felt isolated not being able to see, feel or touch friends and family. While the artist would have distracted herself with friends, events and other activities, the pandemic forced Hayden to experience these stressors and anxieties. It forced her to feel these feelings and deal with them.
In speaking with Hayden about the series, I asked what she hopes the viewer would experience when seeing the images. Quite succulently, Hayden responds “conversations.” She hopes that the works entice viewers to react, dialogue about how they feel, and how this new normal has changed them.
The goal is to allow others to feel seen and known in a way that they didn't know they needed. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being honest.
I invite everyone to view these works, in person or online, and take the time to think a bit deeper about the past couple of years. The pandemic has left its mark in history, on humanity. This is a moment in time that the history books will speak of. Hayden created this visual history of one artist’s experience, leaving her mark on history. What do you want you mark to be?
-your GALLERY500 team