Hugh Hayden: Artist Talk

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Person surrounded by a field of purple flowers with only their head uncovered.

Still from Hugh the Hunter (2015). image / provided


Hugh Hayden's (B.Arch. '07) practice considers the anthropomorphization of the natural world as a visceral lens for exploring the human condition. Hayden transforms familiar objects through a process of selection, carving, and juxtaposition to challenge our perceptions of ourselves, others, and the environment. Raised in Texas and trained as an architect, his work arises from a deep connection to nature and its organic materials. Hayden utilizes wood as his primary medium, frequently loaded with multi-layered histories in their origin, including objects as varied as discarded trunks, rare indigenous timbers, Christmas trees, or souvenir African sculptures. From these he saws, sculpts, and sands the wood, often combining disparate species, creating new composite forms that also reflect their complex cultural backgrounds. Crafting metaphors for human existence and past experience, Hayden's work questions the stasis of social dynamics and asks the viewer to examine their place within an ever-shifting ecosystem. 

Hugh Hayden was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1983 and lives and works in New York City. He holds an M.F.A. from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University. He has had solo exhibitions at The Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey in 2020 and at White Columns in New York in 2018. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including Sculpture Center, New York, New York (2021); Hayward Gallery, London (2020); The Shed, New York, New York (2019); Pilot Projects, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2018); Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah (2015); MoMA PS1, Rockaway Beach, New York, New York (2014); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, New York (2014); and Abrons Art Center, New York, New York (2013); among others. He is the recipient of residencies at Glenfiddich in Dufftown, Scotland (2014); Abrons Art Center and Socrates Sculpture Park (both 2012); and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (2011).

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