Terry Hays has created a poetic and mythological saga with his work currently on exhibit at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Terry Hays: Irreversible Change.
He records a civilization with beginnings in the water (Dragster #1 and #2, Road Warrior #1) where invertebrate life emerged to earth. Fire scorches their earth time and again (Sendai) and the culture both worships and fears the sun. Tsunami waves create havoc and redefine life (Swimming to salvation, escape from the water demons). Hays’ work chronicles a society with a tradition of mask storytelling, pictographs, and runes that both prophesy and bear witness. Water, earth, and fire inhabit the mythos at every level.
Hays’ medium is glorious and meticulous painted wood sculpture. Many of the sculptures are like giant versions of the pop-up books that fascinated us as children, introducing the budding artist in us to the concepts of field of vision – background, foreground, diminishing point perspective, and so on. Terry’s genius is in the detail, which certainly must be tedious to produce at times, but creates a viewing experience that is magical and alive.
His technique is impeccable – there isn’t a stray mark anywhere. He paints dimensionally – a series of repeating blue lines representing waves aren’t just single blue lines – they are four shades of blue, one upon another. Lightning bolts aren’t one color; instead, they are a carefully painted gradient from white to orange to purple. Metallic paints pop up throughout Terry’s work and direct and catch light in interesting ways. What enlightened culture hasn’t worshipped at the altar of gold, silver, copper, and bronze?
Terry Hays’ work inhabits the New Works Space at The MAC this month. Two pieces occupy lobby space with the purpose of luring you into the gallery to see the bulk of the show. The magnificent epic altarpiece, Swimming to salvation, escape from the water demons is the portal to his world.
This piece sets the stage for the story you are about to see. With vibrant, repetitive marks, Swimming ... tells an ancient narrative about water, earth and fire. Pictographs depict ancestors swimming toward land. Theater masks are used to represent god legends.
Enter the gallery and you’ll find a room-size installation with multiple parts, Irreversible Change. The large background piece is vaguely dystopic and largely monochromatic. Freestanding foreground tree forms disprove the exhibit title with their regenerative color.
Bookending Irreversible Change are Sendai – a chilling black, white and gold representation of the beauty in destruction – and Pembina Highway, a similar landscape, but one that has returned to colored life following catastrophe.
Terry Hays: Irreversible Change straddles the show theme; elements of destruction contrasted with elements – the trees for instance – who by their vibrant color indicate they are capable of rebirth and life even after disaster.