painter / New York
interview by JULIANA BALESTIN
portrait by SANDY KIM
Jeanette Hayes uses the Internet and social media as a means to explore the shift in contemporary iconography. Her work takes advantage of the virtual platforms available to artists today and is a study in contrasts between art history references and Internet imagery.
JULIANA BALESTIN — The first time we met we bonded over our love of all things Italian Renaissance and Baroque. Can you tell me a little bit about your art background?
JEANETTE HAYES — I went to an art high school in Chicago. Then I went to Pratt in New York. For all of those eight years I studied painting under a heavy influence of art history. It was not until late in college that I got very interested in contemporary art. I didn’t know so much about it in the beginning.
JULIANA BALESTIN — There are elements of reproduction, appropriation, and the surreal in your practice. How would you describe your work for someone who has never seen it?
JEANETTE HAYES — First and foremost, I see myself as a painter. I think in your first decade as an artist, you’re really figuring it out. Everyone has this period. Even Caravaggio. You’re copying, then you’re making it your own. I feel like in a few more years my work will be something completely different. Right now, what I’m doing is taking a lot of art-historical references and incorporating contemporary imagery and Internet imagery. Juxtaposing ideas. There is an aspect of the Internet in my practice, using Photoshopped collages, videos, animated GIFs, and things like that.
JULIANA BALESTIN — There is definitely a group of artists right now using technology and specifically social media as a narrative tool. What interests you about social media as part of your art practice?
JEANETTE HAYES — I think it’s the immediacy. I know if something I make is a hit or not within 10 minutes of it appearing on the Internet. If I put a painting online or on Instagram, there is an immediate reaction, which is interesting to see. Social media is also the fastest way to see 10,000 things in a day, which I really appreciate.
JULIANA BALESTIN — Is our generation hiding behind social media, manipulating its own reality?
JEANETTE HAYES — No, we’re putting ourselves on display. I think you need to be very aware of your Internet presence. That is how you’re looked at. I like the things I have full control over. Right now, I think we are in the Wild Wild West of the Internet. For me, if you can figure out how to manipulate the Internet correctly, you can really make it. I don’t know if I’ll like it in one year, but right now it works.
JULIANA BALESTIN — What is the relationship like between art and fashion collaborations, and how do you balance those two worlds?
JEANETTE HAYES — I’m very lucky to work with cool brands like Proenza, Chanel, and Opening Ceremony. I don’t want to go too far into that world, but the spirit of collaboration can be exciting. I’m all for it as long as we are making something amazing. Right now, it’s mostly fashion brands that want to work with me.
JULIANA BALESTIN — You just had your first solo exhibition in Rome at Motel Salieri. Has it been hard to navigate the gallery world?
JEANETTE HAYES — My gallery experience has been mostly group shows. My thing has always been trying to make it without a gallery, but lately I’ve seen the benefit of a gallery’s support.
JULIANA BALESTIN — The Internet is a great way to expose yourself to art, but it cannot replace the experience of viewing it in person.
JEANETTE HAYES — This is why I don’t want to make art just for the Internet. I want to make paintings that you can spend time with and can think about, but you can see the detail only in person.
JULIANA BALESTIN — Technology is changing so quickly. A painting of yours from a year ago depicting the iPhone screen saver is already displaying an outmoded form of technology.
JEANETTE HAYES — I know, now we have iOS 7 on the iPhone. About those paintings, the number-one response I got was, “You need to update the iOS on that painting.” The new updates in technology are not timeless icons in the same way as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, for example, but if you paint them and capture their moment you give it substance. I’m using recognizable forms. We all look at our phones. It is an archival place in history.
JULIANA BALESTIN — Right now, we don’t look to a religious icon for guidance; we look to our phones. Our phone is the thing we adore without even realizing it. Instead of the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, you give us the Ecstasy of Instagram.
JEANETTE HAYES — Completely. Technology is a new form of religious art.
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