Maggie Hayes (b. Atlanta, 1989) is a soulful, sexual, energetic, joyful, and sometimes angst-filled, beautiful force of nature who, after stints at UGA, UCF, Temple University, and long stays in Costa Rica and New York, finally feels comfortable in calling Savannah home.
A painter, sculptor, and performance artist, she is a former competitive swimmer and athlete, locally known as an energetically twerking DJ with regular gigs at the Thompson Hotel pool, Barrelhouse South and Rogue Water. She is also deeply spiritual with a consistent writing, breathwork, meditation, and yoga practice that she often teaches to others.
Hayes’ artwork is deeply informed by her exploration of the body-mind-soul union. Often incorporating sculpture, beadwork, painting, installations, and performance pieces, Savannah’s art lovers will remember some of her incredible former shows: A two-week residency “Give Me My Flowers While I’m Still Here” in the sorely missed Welmont space; “Coming Up For Air” at Haza (now the Stables); and last year’s beautiful installation focusing on “The Play of Light” with her mother, ceramicist Kathy Hayes, in the main gallery of Sulfur Studios.
Building on a 2019 Sulfur Studios’ ON::View Residency where she sat in silent meditation and created an altar for viewers to share in her experience of “unconditional love breaking down the hierarchy of oppression,” Hayes had a solo exhibition at Day & Night Projects in Atlanta in April of 2021. Incorporating video and paintings, an integral piece of that show was her seven-day meditation and fast.
“I wanted to garden my mind and clear my energy of anything that was not loving,” Hayes tells me, “If we work towards love in ourselves, we are much more able to integrate the outside world and see it without judgement.”
On day five, however, she really hit a wall.
“I’m sitting there getting preoccupied with my mom’s birthday and whether or not The Wyld would be open, and because I don’t have my phone to just satisfy that itch, it creates this anxiety and downward spiral into wondering about other things like how much money I have. Quite simple things were triggering such unease. That’s often how it is. Whether or not we can stop the spiral is the effort of a mindfulness practice.”
Hayes continues, “It was easier to not eat than be off my phone for seven days! It’s such a mixed blessing to have Google and this network of connectivity, but it feeds that anxious side of us so deeply.” Finally, however, Hayes reached a point where she thought, “There’s really nothing to do and there’s nowhere to go.”
“And that,” she says, “is where the title for my new show came from. Once I surrendered to that thought – there’s nothing to do, there’s no reservation to book right now, there’s nothing to pay for right now – there was a softening and an allowing of presence to occur. Just sitting with what-is, the good and bad, the ugly and beautiful, is what inspired this body of work. It came out of that meditation.”
Hayes’ show “Nowhere To Go; Infinite Horror, Infinite Beauty” opens this Friday evening (July 15) at Rule of Three Gallery on Montgomery St.
Gallerist Stephanie Forbes tells me she met Hayes years ago while they were both working at The Collins Quarter, “Anthony said, ‘you guys need to be friends.’” Indeed, the women share striking similarities: both are beautiful, spiritual, and deeply dedicated to their creative journeys.
“She’s never had a curator take all the work and install it for her. I feel honored to be entrusted with that,” Forbes says. “Her work is so beautiful and dynamic, but she often puts so much into each show. I’m excited to have the opportunity to apportion it out.”
“Nowhere To Go” focuses on the duality that exists between beauty and pain, struggle and ease. Hayes says she personally associates the tropical places of South America with paradise.
“I was so enamored by the people and culture of Costa Rica and yet there is this intense poverty, and that’s so often the case. These beautiful places are so heavily affected by exploitation and colonization. How do we even begin to reckon with that?”
“It’s so easy to focus on the darkness without seeing that there’s still so much beauty despite these oppressive systems,” Hayes continues. A couple of her large abstract paintings are influenced by locations of American intervention. One is based on a scene in a documentary on Vietnam where an idyllic area of palm trees “is being bombed and you see this glow of light and the sparkles of the bombs. Aesthetically, this destructive scene is bizarrely pretty.” The second is set in Hawaii and references the displacement of Indigenous culture.
Sculptures of skull fragments and broken bones hang from a miliary parachute and prompt us to question who benefits from foreign government aid, from war, or from colonization. Above the parachute are clouds which represent the ephemeral nature of the situation and offer some hope that any perceived negativity is a temporary element. A series of small and affordable cloud paintings reinforce the concept that we are both a temporary and an eternal energy.
“If we are really in the flow of life, we are in that constant state of change where there is also a constant recycling of energy,” Hayes says.
A performance piece (date TBD) where the artist will be bound for an extended duration will further push the concept that there’s nowhere to go, to instead surrender and discover how to become empowered when we feel helpless.
Diagnosed with cancer in February of this year, Hayes recognized, “It was important to think I was not powerless. I have control of my attitude. I have control of my thoughts. I don’t mean to diminish anyone else’s journey, but for me, I got to the point where cancer does not need to be good or bad, it’s just an experience...”
“…If I didn’t have the relationship with my mind and body that I do, I don’t know how I would have got through,” Hayes continues. “That solidarity is how I’ve been able to thrive. There is a temptation to say, ‘why me?’ when certain things happen in our lives, but so often it’s ‘why NOT me?’ There’s no goodness or healthy behavior that protects you from grief or loss or pain. Similarly, that thought can be used for beautiful things. For example, the time I went to Art Basel, I thought, ‘why not me? I could be here!’”
The meditation breakthrough she experienced on day five of her Atlanta show provided Hayes with an armor for the diagnosis and treatments that lay ahead and offered the inspiration for this new exhibition. Come - and be infinitely inspired.
The Thompson Hotel sponsors the opening reception for Maggie Hayes’ “Nowhere To Go; Infinite Horror, Infinite Beauty” Friday July 15 between 6 and 9 pm at Rule of Three Gallery, 915 Montgomery Street. Work will be installed through September 2, 2022. Details on the show and a date for the future performance piece can be found on Instagram.com/ro3-gallery
Find out more about Hayes’ artwork, breathwork, yoga, and DJ gigs at Maggie-Hayes.com and at Instagram.com/ParadiseVitalityStudio