Christina Haylett: Revelations in Paint at the University of Michigan-Dearborn Stamelos Gallery Center
Michigan-based artist Christina Haylett had exhibited her work throughout the state and particularly throughout the Metro-Detroit area since 1980 when she graduated from College for Creative Studies with a degree in painting. While holding a position at Chrysler, Haylett consistently sought exhibition opportunities, balancing this full-time job with the pursuit to one day become a full-time artist. After twenty-three years working in the car industry, Haylett took the plunge and retired in 2008, dedicating all of her time to her studio and exhibition practice. The works on display in her solo show Revelations in Paint at the Stalemos Gallery span time and reveal the succession of her practice from 2009 until now.
The qualities of this exhibition are uncovered one by one, starting with the comprehensive text about the artist’s personal, educational, and professional background. Laura Cotton, the curator of Stamelos Gallery, worked closely with the artist to assemble these details as an educational resource for the public, serving as an access point to enter the work with ease. This text is complemented by the informational placards containing backstories to many of the works on display, written by the artist herself. As we review these placards, we learn about the numerous influences that were at play throughout the years. We learn about her exploration of portraiture and appreciation for the work of Alice Neel. We learn about her experience with a stink bug infestation, her journey through cancer recovery, her interactions with the spaces and people around her, like a cement factory along Macomb Orchard Trail, her young neighbor Piper or her professor Charles McGee. We learn about the ways that she approaches the development of a piece, which are ultimately informed by all of these life experiences.
Her portraits of Starbucks baristas and physical therapists are relatively straight-forward figurative studies that explore form, color, line, brushwork and occasionally mixed-media collage. They contain an intimacy that underlines the remarkable relationships that Haylett has with her subjects, which is again defined in her plein-air landscape paintings depicting some of her favorite places in Michigan like Frankfort, Port Hope and Glen Arbor. Haylett’s practice has regularly oscillated between representation and non-representation since she began to seriously explore the world of abstraction in 2009. It is in abstraction that she is able to engage more directly with the spiritual and intuitive nature of creative production.
Haylett’s uniquely innovative approach to material application, color combinations, line work and composition is most confidently present in her abstract paintings. Her educational background in art comes through in the criticality of decision-making that references a multitude of modern artists without compromising her individuality. Christina’s Journey marks the early stages of her use of a particular methodology similar to automatism. Beginning with a loose thought, concern or inspiration, she marks the paper or canvas again and again, allowing them to guide her each time as she balances between conscious and subconscious resolutions. Elements emerge, and meaning is revealed as she participates in this process of discovery through painting.
While paintings like Toy Box, Sometimes I Feel a Little Crazy, Progress and Where You Are Headed remain in a realm governed primarily by color and form, other paintings rooted in abstraction incorporate symbolism like animals, faces, numbers, peace signs, stars, silhouettes and shadows. A viewer’s interpretation can be guided by titles like Premonition, The Nature of Things, My Clear Eyes Can See Forever, Spirit Travelers or Boogie Woogie Polka as they navigate the show. These paintings have the potential to become therapeutic tools for anyone willing to get lost in them and find meaning in the chaos.
Revelations in Paint is the second solo exhibition of Christina Haylett’s career. In 2014, she produced a body of work for her first solo show which took place at the Starkweather Gallery in Romeo, Michigan; she has never shown outside of Michigan, although the references elicited by her work is far-reaching. This exhibition, currently on view at the Stamelos Gallery, comprises previously shown along with paintings that were never seen before now including, Where You Are Headed, Salmon Running, Boogie Woogie Polka, My Clear Eyes Can See, The Nature of things, House on Tienken 1, La la land, Ghosts of Manufacturing, The Incident, Jazzy, Coming Together and Another Incident on File. Christina Haylett’s work was complemented by a medley of glass pieces from the Art Collections and Exhibitions Department at the University of Michigan. The Art Collections and Exhibition Department offers dynamic programming to enhance the presence of art within the university overall. This is done through the exhibitions at the Stamelos Gallery as well as acquisitions to grow their collection, which is made available for research as well as loans to other institutions.
Revelations in Paint by Christina Haylett at the U of M Dearborn Stamelos Gallery opened on January 19 and closes on March 28, 2023
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