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 distinct style of his work, 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 is unique to his work.
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.
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
Years later when arthritis forced him to stop working, he turned back to painting portraits as a form of therapy.
But Hayes said he fought God’s plan by painting portraits, until he said the Lord took him on a spiritual experience that changed everything; showing him faceless black figures working and living in what Hayes called distorted perspective.
“I’m very thankful that the Lord wouldn’t leave me alone,” he said, “because I look around today and see what he’s done for me in my life… it’s very wonderful, because I use it to help his people.”
Hayes believed his artistic skill and talents were true gifts from God. He never failed to recognize his Creator. He never failed to recognize his Creator. In fact, Hayes once said, “You know how I paint? It’s the spirit of God working through my fingertips.”
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.