Stephen Hayes – Flying W
Dimensions: 115 x 183 x 144″
Medium: mixed media sculpture
Flying W is based on the story of Jessie Beery combined with the willie Lynch letter. The Lynch letter alluded to the idea that one should train a slave the same way they’d break a horse. Jessie Beery was a horse trainer who used demonic measures to train his horses. He regularly tied the front legs of his horses and when they disobeyed him, he would pull the ropes attached to their front legs which resulted in the horse falling on their faces, and leaving an impression of a W in the dirt.
Stephen L. Hayes, Jr. makes art—woodcuts, sculptures, installations small and large—from found materials that draw on social and economic themes ingrained in the history of America and African-Americans. His approach is simple: “If I can’t find it, I’ll make it. If I can’t make it, I’ll find it.”
He went to North Carolina Central University, aiming to transfer to North Carolina State University to study mechanical engineering. Instead, through a friend, he discovered graphic design. His new major led to a ceramics course, where his enthusiasm and skill led to being allowed as much time as he wanted on the wheel. He threw enough pots to develop a strong portfolio, leading to a residency at the acclaimed New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Hayes earned an MFA in sculpture at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. His thesis exhibition, Cash Crop, has been traveling and exhibiting for nearly a decade.
Frequently in his work, Hayes uses three symbols: a pawn, a corn, and a horse to explore America’s use (or misuse) of Black bodies, Black minds, and Black labor. Artists, he believes, are as much translators as they are creators.