The de Menil Gallery Archive

"Anatomy of a Small Universe" by Nancy Hayes

Nancy Hayes’ large-format paintings are colorful landscapes of the artist’s imagination and invitations to explore your own.
Paying reverence to design concepts—colors, lines, patterns—the artist creates characters in the abstract, engaging viewers in a mystical, physical world. “Just as a reader injects their own personal knowledge into a story, enriching the plot, my objective is to allow the viewer to explore their own visual narratives, enhancing the forms with their own imaginations,” Hayes says.
A sculptor in clay for twenty-five years before taking up painting, Hayes says that, through painting, “I can be the designer, color theorist, and inventor, giving form to my creativity.” She also says that painting allows her to “express concepts beyond my understanding.”
Powerful but subtle, gentle but tough, Hayes’ paintings can evoke visceral reactions. According to de Menil Gallery curator and photography teacher Monika Andersson, the work “summons something organic, and something tribal, through which the power of our physical world and the flow of cells get honored and seen. By proxy, the work speaks to life, ever in transition, and ultimately to the interconnectedness of self to all. And through this process of thought and visual exploration, we may find a representation of the innermost heart, where beauty is form, and meaning lies in the fact that the very delicate can be very strong.”