When you think about vibrant colors, scenes of the North Carolina coast, and melodic jazz rhythms, you think about beloved artist Ivey Hayes.
Ivey Hayes is perhaps one of the most prolific and most well-loved North Carolina artists of his time. His simplistic way of capturing the rustic scenes of his youth bring back a sense of nostalgia and fondness for life in the south.
Ivey passed away in 2012, but he left behind a catalog of his work. Paintings that depicted exaggerated forms doing the most mundane of tasks, shucking oysters, catching fish, picking cotton, casting a fishing net, and the scenes of his youth spent in Jazz clubs; musicians with their fingers on piano keys, brass saxophones, and sliding up and down a harmonica.
The style of his work in indistinguishable, the incredibly bright colors blending together as if they belonged, the lack of facial features on his subjects, but most importantly a love of the most ordinary, everyday experiences.
Artist Ivey Hayes was born in Rocky Point, North Carolina on August 15, 1948, to Wilbert Hayes and Dilsey Fennel. Ivey was one of eight children.
In the third grade, Ivey was encouraged to take up painting, he graduated from high school in 1966 and began college at North Carolina Central University. He completed his B.A. and got his M.F.A at North Carolina University at Greensboro in 1975.
During this time he developed his style that propelled his career, using acrylic paints straight from the tube that created a vibrant, saturated color palate that defined his works.
Ivey was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and classified as disabled in 1987, but kept painting despite it. Ivey never believed his illness could stop him from doing what he loved, saying, “You know how I paint? It’s the spirit of God working through my fingertips.”
Hayes would receive many accolades in his career including a solo exhibition at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C And in 1995 a big turning point in his career, Hayes was a featured guest and exhibitor on the PBS program, The Charlie Rose Show.
Hayes also received the Presidential and Celebrity awards and honors such as the North Carolina Azalea Festival Master of Arts. Hayes was also awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award in 2006, a prestigious honor bestowed by the governor of North Carolina.
Widely regarded as one of North Carolina’s most treasured artists, Ivey’s work has been exhibited in places such as Washington, D.C., Boston and New York as well as various galleries and private collections in the United States.
Ivey never lost his humble roots despite his success, he continued to sell his watercolors and paintings at local markets and street fairs, including Wilmington’s Riverfest and Azalea Festival, even creating special paintings for the events.
Ivey’s love of North Carolina and it’s inherent beauty shows through in all of his paintings, “I had a love for the pencil and to draw things, so it was something that was in me that I had to do. I didn’t have a choice. I loved it. I walked it. I talked it. I dreamed it. Everything was like art. It was like life for me. I didn’t even have to push myself. It was in me, it took hold of me and all I had to do was just do.”
Ivey’s grandchildren are helping to preserve his legacy and his artwork and spread it to a new generation of admirers by curating his works and making prints for everyone to enjoy.