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Artist Carolynn Haydu

Carolynn Haydu was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Her first creative influence was her Hungarian grandfather who worked as a carpenter on Hollywood sets. Carolynn received her BFA in studio art from UC Berkeley and her Masters in Art from NYU. She works out of her studio in Oakland, CA. In 2021 she started a gallery for emerging artists called Metal Haus. Carolynn has shown her work in galleries in the Bay Area, New York and Venice, Italy. Most recently she participated in shows at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and the San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art.

This latest body of work was created in 2022 in direct response to the upheaval of these last 2 years. Against the backdrop of world altering events, I was evicted from an art studio of 11 years by a corporate real estate firm. Indeed, the Bay Area has seen the systematic dismantling of nearly all collective artists' studios due to corporate development. Although a minor event compared to the pandemic, social upheaval, fires and drought in my home state, losing affordable studio space and the artistic community that went with it was devastating. In response, my work has been more concerned with the concept of land access. I am thinking about who gets access to land, about class and gentrification and about dwindling resources. I'm using topographical maps as a visual starting point for a new series of works that explore these topics. I'd like to incorporate the language of maps into paintings that celebrate what California inspires and lament what it has lost. In addition to more traditional work on wood panel, I've been creating larger installations in 2022. I conceived of a larger than life "cloak of protection" that could envelope the artist and protect the creative process. It was an attempt to feel powerful when I learned I would be evicted from my studio space. It was also an ode to the artist community that would be scattered once the evictions were complete. Mostly, It was an attempt to create my own talisman, or magic object. I adapted this piece to include forms inspired by California topography as well as cloud patterns, wood grain and stone. My creative process is guided by the rhythm of breaking and reforming. I create paintings and installations with paper, then take them apart. What most intrigues me is the resurrection of a piece: works formed by layering, something new rising where something old was destroyed. The end result mimics grounding patterns in nature such as granite and wood grain that reflect the stability of passing time. My work originated with drawing. I focused heavily on Renaissance drawing technique in college, with a heavy emphasis on nature observations. Although my work has changed much over time, the thread that runs through the 27 years of dedicated art practice is an observation of natural form, rhythm and pattern. Over time I became more interested in the abstract residue left by a drawing than the actual drawing itself. The patterns that were left over from a study became the focus, and my work shifted into mixed media collections of this detritus. I still work this way: painting and breaking the paintings a part, collecting and re-assembling.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background in the arts.

I was born in Los Angeles County. My first artistic influence was my grandfather. He was a Hungarian immigrant who worked on the Hollywood sets as a carpenter. In his free time, he was an accomplished oil painter and ceramacist. As a child, I tried to emulate his creativity. I received my undergraduate in Art Practice at UC Berkeley where I studied Renaissance drawing technique and ceramics. In time, I became more and more interested in a mixed media approach to drawing and painting. I explored mixed media painting in my masters program at NYU. I have always let the materials lead when it comes to my art practice. I discover content through the process, as opposed to making art to illustrate a concept.

What kind of work are you currently making?

I'm working on a series of mixed media paintings on paper and wood panel that use topographical maps as a visual jumping off point. I am using the language of topography to make work about land access, dwindling resources and gentrification; issues that are especially poignant in California. These paintings are fantasy maps of my home state: nostalgic pictures of what once was, or perhaps never was. It's a way to channel a longing for an imaginary Home, amidst the constant change and chaos of contemporary life.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

I start slow, make sure I have plenty of snacks and podcasts and then i dive in. Every day is different. Lately I understand the importance of showing up no matter if inspiration strikes or not. If I don't know how to start I let myself sit quietly with a piece until it tells me where to go.

What are you looking at right now and/or reading?

I'm listening to Jerry Saltz audio books both ART IS LIFE and HOW TO BE AN ARTIST. I'm also addicted to the Vulgar History podcast which details powerful women who have many times been written out of history. I have been off and on reading Ninth Street Women about the abstract expressionist artists that have played mostly a second role to their more famous male counterpoints: a fascinating, excellent book. I also just binge watched both seasons of White Lotus. All hail Queen Jennifer Coolidge!

Where can we find more of your work?

Insta: @carolynn_haydu

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