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Featured Artist | Bryan Haynes

Fall Reflections

The 2017 Winter Exhibit includes 6 masterful acrylic paintings by Regionalist Missouri artist Bryan Haynes. In this week’s blog post, Gallery Director Hannah Reeves asks Haynes about his background and connection to the Midwestern landscape and history. 

Reeves: Were you born and raised in the Midwest? To what extent are you drawing on your personal history and sense of place when you paint?

Haynes: Born and raised in Kirkwood, Missouri, I left to attend the University of New Mexico and then completed my education at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena CA in 1983. Having built my career in Los Angeles as a commercial artist I returned home, back to the canvas, and to the rediscovery of the Midwestern landscape. Everything seemed to come together. There was the convergence of a narrative and painting. Living in a rural area now, I feel a sense of community with people who have direct links to the land.

Reeves: Many of your paintings seem to refer to a specific character and setting. Could you talk about the role of narrative in your work, and how you choose or develop your stories?

Haynes: We knew a man, not far from here, who cleared his land with mules. Neighbors knew to call on him to doctor their animals with his concoctions in glass mason jars. Many of those neighbors still live on the land their ancestors settled over a hundred and fifty years ago. Not far from here is the place where Osage braves killed a German immigrant for his big white horse. And, if you were to continue down along the railroad tracks, you would come upon Tavern Cave, a cave visited by Lewis and Clark on their way west and used for millennia as a shelter for travelers on the Missouri River. It is not uncommon to find arrowheads or spear points, on the banks of the river and its creeks, from people that were here thousands of years ago. Seemingly, the river attracts a migratory path of stories from the people passing through. Stories such as these can’t help but find their way into my sketchbook and into my paintings.

Reeves: The physical terrain of the Midwest has changed so drastically over the past several decades. Will your work follow suit, or does modern development make it even more important for you to remind us of our bygone landscape?

Haynes: Living again among these hills my sketchbook began to fill with small postcard-sized sketches of possible landscape compositions. I drew bumps and hollows, lengthened shadows, or bent a tree to frame a scene – the organic shapes conforming to my underlying framework of expression. Using the tools of the commercial art trade learned over decades to create emotion and convey feeling, I began to realize that in order to capture the beauty and character of this region most accurately, my compositions required altering and exaggerating objects to convey specific emotions rather than copying a photographic reality.

Reeves: What does your New Regionalism do today that may be differently effective than early 20th century Regionalist work?

Haynes: I see my work fitting into a larger movement of “Regionalism” in the culture at large today. Meaning, the popularity of farmer’s markets, maker’s movements, loca-vore food movements, DIY, and “back to the land” movements are all part of a balancing in opposition to our “digital” lives. My interpretation of scenes from an earlier time can’t help but be seen through the lens of current design, as it is an inherent part of how I create my paintings. I hope the viewer sees the narratives in a new way when seen on my canvases.

Reeves: What is your “studio quirk”?

Haynes: I really think a brain scan of my head would reveal that it is basically empty except for a softball sized visual cortex that leaves no space for memory of car keys laid, or why I just came into this room. As a kid, people called me an artist, but I think we artisans know we simply are compelled to draw and paint, and by sheer practice a strong cord fastens between eye, brain, and hand. A “studio quirk” might be the fact that I am the cheapest and most available model I have for painting figure reference!