The Paintings of Maine Artist Connie Hayes
In 2004, I first saw Connie Hayes’s paintings in a solo exhibition at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine. I was immediately taken with her bold use of color and composition to create unique views of the small towns and unseen places in Maine. Known for her colorful landscapes, Connie Hayes’s paintings beautifully depict the quiet moments of daily life.
About Connie Hayes
Connie Hayes was born in the town of Gardiner near Augusta, Maine. She received her B.F.A. from the Maine College of Art in 1980 and her M.F.A. from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in 1982. She also received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Art from the Maine College of Art in 2003. After living in New York City from 1992 to 1998, she now lives and paints in and around Rockland, Maine.
Color Use and Painting Style
Connie’s paintings are often recognizable for her vibrant use of color and her loose painting style. Many of her landscapes feature yellow or purple skies. Although not commonly found in nature, these colors give the impression of a misty, cloudy day or that time just before the sun is setting.
Her paintings, while sometimes dark and moody, can at other times feature bright sunny days. In these paintings, Connie will usually paint one side of a building with brilliant white or lemon yellow to suggest the presence of bright sunshine. The sides of the building in shadow are then colored in deep violet or cool turquoise colors. These paintings remind me of the light in late summer afternoons when the sun is still bright but the shadows are getting longer. After drawing your eye to one bright spot, she then repeats these colors in areas around the painting (called “reflective color”) to move your attention across the canvas to take in the full picture.
Use of Composition and Perspective
The perspective in the composition of her paintings is also meant to move your eye around the image. Many of her paintings feature a road, driveway, or path in the foreground that serves as a walkway for your eye to follow and creates a type of tunnel. This is a common perspective technique that has been used throughout the history of painting.
In other paintings, cascades of rooftops move you from one place to another. Connie generally paints from life or uses photographs of real places. However, as an artist, she makes subtle adjustments, and the little changes make the view in her finished work more complex and intriguing.
Another interesting technique Connie uses is putting an object extremely close to the foreground with the rest of the landscape in the far background. This child-like view is a practice that Alfred Hitchcock has used in his films to unsettle his viewers.
Comparisons to Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper is another artist that Connie Hayes is often compared to, and there are certainly some strong similarities. Hopper also painted in Maine and used strong sunlight in many of his paintings. His works featured few lone (and lonely) figures, creating a well-known feeling of isolation. Connie Hayes seems to have turned up the volume on Hopper’s color palette (by a few decibels), and her landscapes rarely have any people present. Instead, you see empty cars, vacant chairs, or some other evidence of someone who might have just left. Connie’s brushstrokes are definitely looser and more painterly than Hopper’s. Somehow, for me, her more relaxed style brings to mind the quiet days of summer in Maine.
Although she is an artist painting predominantly in Maine, I think her work has universal appeal and resonance. Her worn buildings, colored sky, and quiet water could just as likely be in Petoskey in Michigan, San Diego, or Key West.
In 1990, Connie Hayes began her “Borrowed Views” project. She asked her friends and friends of friends if she could come, stay in their homes, and paint. She thereby created her own “artist-in-residence” program. The resulting paintings showed mostly interiors, featured bright colors, and were absent of people. In 2003, these “borrowed views”, along with some of Connie’s landscapes, were published in the book Painting Maine: The Borrowed Views of Connie Hayes. This book not only shows a wide array of Connie’s work, but it also discusses her paintings in the context of other artists and her artistic process.
Connie’s current work is a departure from her landscapes. These new paintings feature figures, mostly children, in interior settings. Although her color palette is more subtle, these images still employ the same loose brushstrokes, strong light, and perspective techniques that make Connie’s paintings so interesting.
© 2012 Donna Herron