This semester, the University of Mississippi Museum will feature “Unwritten Memoir,” an exhibit that visually gives life to memories belonging to Holly Springs native Randy Hayes, and a reception is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday.
Hayes has been painting from photographs his entire career, but it was not until around 1990 that he began to put paint on top of photographs themselves.
In his “Unwritten Memoir” collection, Hayes used various methods to bring the canvases to life. He began by arranging select photographs into a grid.
Hayes said sometimes the grid itself is a photogenic narrative, while other times, he will paint on a larger photograph divided into a grid. Some grids are on canvases, while others are pinned to the wall as their own canvases. Hayes said his concept is continuously developing, and variations will evolve over time.
One painting featured is “Aphrodisius/Pass Christian.” For this diptych-style creation, Hayes found inspiration in the destruction left behind by Hurricane Katrina.
“After Hurricane Katrina, I went to the Gulf Coast,” he said. “I had been going there since I was a youngster. This time, however, all the familiar landmarks were gone.”
Though Hayes returned to the Gulf Coast in hopes of capturing a revelation, he went on to describe how his camera stayed in his car seat for hours as he tried to make sense of the devastation that was left.
“Finally, I realized that I was looking at a ruin, but it was a contemporary ruin,” Hayes said. “From that point on, I began to see in my mind comparisons with photographs I had taken of ruins in other parts of the world. I knew then that I would have to paint the ruins in pairs.”
Hayes said the inspiration for his paintings can come to him at any time.
“When I am out for exercise, ideas often come to me,” he said. “Other ideas come from analytical thinking. Travel, especially in an unfamiliar environment, often generates inspiration.”
Hayes’ work has been featured in the Mississippi Museum of Art, Contemporary Photography in Chicago and the U.S. Department of State. Many private and public collections have featured his art, as well as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.
When asked if he has a piece that holds a special significance to him, Hayes was unbiased.
“The paintings are a little like children,” he said. “I try not to have a favorite.”
“Unwritten Memoirs” has been on display at the University of Mississippi Museum since Aug. 22 and has been a stop on the Oxford Arts Crawl.
The University of Mississippi Museum will be hosting a reception with the artist this Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. during the opening reception and annual membership gala.
Debbie Nelson, who serves as the membership, events and communications coordinator at the University of Mississippi Museum, is particularly excited about this collection.
“The museum is pleased to offer an extensive collection of Randy Hayes’ unique art,” she said. “His style of oil painting over photographs mounted on canvas brings incredible depth to each piece. Adding to the exhibit are display cases featuring memorabilia which coordinate with photographs from Hayes’ travels.”
Hayes said he hopes each viewer will have his or her own interpretation about what the work of art means.
The “Unwritten Memoirs” exhibit will be available for viewing through Dec. 9 at the University Museum.