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Christina Haylett: Revelations in Paint

January 19 - March 26


About the Exhibition

This exhibition features a large collection of mixed-media, non-representational artworks, landscapes and portraits created by Detroit-area artist Christina Haylett between 2009 and 2022. Haylett's work is an exploration of shape, pattern, line, texture and color and their impact on each other. Her pieces start out as marks on a board, paper or canvas, and the act of working leads her through the artistic process with no idea where it will end up, or what will be revealed.

Picture of The Nature of Things painting by Christina Haylett
The Nature of Things, Christina Haylett

The artist often works plein air and is influenced by the world around her, but also her own thoughts, beliefs, and introspections about the concerns of our time. Haylett considers the last twelve years to have been her most life-changing and productive period, and she believes this body of work best represents her as an artist.

On display along with Haylett's fascinating compositions is a small selection of studio glass pieces from the University of Michigan- Dearborn permanent collection. Haylett and Curator Laura Cotton chose these works together that inspire the artist and reflect specific elements of her work.

I love to paint. I love the tactile feel of the paint on a surface, the potential offered with each tube, the puzzles to be solved while creating, and all the emotions of joy, sorrow, pain and pleasure that are part of the process. My tools are color, line, shape, pattern and texture working together and revealing for me a way to visualize the invisible. These artworks are about everyday life for me. My work on the non-representational pieces leads me down unknown and unplanned pathways. It's a way for me to let go and let it take me somewhere I haven't been.

Romare Bearden summed up his artistic process with these words, "You have to begin somewhere… so you put something down, then you put something else with it… then you see how that works and maybe you try something else… and so the picture grows in that way." This is exactly how I work. At some point the piece either starts to gel, or not. The important thing for me is to keep pushing through until I get to that point.

Picture of Sometimes I Feel a Little Crazy by Christina Haylett
Sometimes I Feel a Little Crazy,
Christina Haylett

I was born in 1950 and grew up in Royal Oak Michigan. I'm the fourth child in a family of seven children. My mother was a homemaker, and my father was a tool and die maker. They sent us to the Shrine of the Little Flower, a Catholic School, and I went there for twelve years. In school, I learned I was an artist. I started getting recognition for my drawings and my family encouraged it. The high school had a wonderful art department, and I was exposed to a variety of media and techniques including silk screening, sculpture, painting, and drawing.

After graduating from high school, I was a little lost. I had no plans for college and no money to be able to attend. Until age twenty-five I worked a variety of different jobs… not in the habit of thinking about what I wanted to do, but what I had to do to live. I obtained a position working in a factory as a surface grinder. I was earning good money and taking care of myself financially, but I wasn't living a good or meaningful life. I was starting to get into trouble. I knew that I was not happy, and I was supposed to be doing something else.

One of my friends encouraged me to think carefully about what I'd really love to be doing. I had always loved art and had thought of myself as an artist from an early age. I had often heard of The Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts and had always wanted to go there. I began attending classes there in 1975, the same year the school became The Center for Creative Studies (now, The College for Creative Studies). My friend had encouraged me to enroll. She helped me fill out the entry forms, put together a portfolio, and find financial aid. I enrolled in the fine arts program, and I felt at home immediately. I was never a good student until I attended CCS. Going there opened up my world! I felt hopeful for the first time in a long time about the direction of my life. I knew I was in the right place.

Picture of Spirit of the North by Christina Haylett
Spirit of the North, Christina Haylett

Initially, I chose printmaking as my major… but I soon discovered that wasn't going to work for me. With this artform, there's too much of a time lag between creating an image and seeing the final result. I fell in love with painting and drawing and that became my major.

I enjoyed the challenge of school and being in an incubator for budding artists. Attending an art college made a profound difference in my life. Joe Bernard, Russ Keeter, Tony Williams, Leo Mardirosian, Lester Johnson, and Harry Smallenburg became my teachers and mentors.

In 1980, I graduated from CCS with a painting degree. Unfortunately, the economy was in bad shape, and I became unemployed. I soon enrolled in a government training program that taught me tool design and drafting, and I worked in a couple of job shops before a friend got me a position with Chrysler. Eventually, I was promoted to process engineer working in manufacturing. My job was not related to the arts, but I kept working at my art. I had a twenty-three-year career at Chrysler, and I entered artwork every year into their "Artist at Work Program." I couldn't believe my good fortune to be recognized for my art in my workplace. I saw it as a sign that I was supposed to continue on the art path.

When I retired from Chrysler in 2008, I made a commitment to myself to pursue art making full-time. I became involved with several art groups and started taking classes and attending workshops. The Romeo Guild of Art, The Detroit Artist Market, The Scarab Club, The Starkweather Arts Center, The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center (BBAC), The Paint Creek Center for the Arts, and The Thursday Brushes were all instrumental in the development of my artistic practice. The Thursday Brushes are a group of eight artists who meet every Thursday to create art together. We gather in the morning to paint for a few hours, eat lunch, and then critique each other's work. Meeting other artists and being involved in the fertile, Detroit-area art community is quite important for me.

During the lockdown period of the COVID- 19 pandemic, virtual meetings and critiques with The Thursday Brushes, as well as virtual classes at the BBAC, helped me weather the loneliness and isolation. This was the first time that I had felt lonely working in my studio, and I realized how essential it is to have interaction with other artists, family, friends and people in general.

Picture of Saved from Time by Christina Haylett
Saved from Time, Christina Haylett

Although the work in this exhibition spans from 2009 to the present, the bulk of it has been created within the last four years. The year 2009 was life-changing for me because I met and began studying with renowned Detroit artist Charles McGee. I met Charles later in his life when he was teaching at the BBAC. I knew about Charles when I was in art school in the 1970s, and I never thought I would meet him…. much less study with him! I took two classes with him, and we became friends. Charles was not a "how-to" teacher. He would come around in his quiet way while I was working and start asking about what I was doing. Charles told me that he thought I liked to be "particular." He encouraged me to put as much into my paintings as I wanted, and to experiment with materials and collage. He and I went to see exhibits together and I often went to his house, and he critiqued my work. Under his tutelage, I found my own voice and, in his words, developed my own "signature."

Some other well-known artists who have influenced my work are: Philip Guston, Brenda Goodman, Gustav Klimt, Hundertwasser, Alice Neel, Van Gogh, Georges Braque, Francis Bacon, Romare Bearden, Diebenkorn, David Hockney, Frida Kahlo, Rick Bartow, and Jacob Lawrence. I'm also widely inspired by Indigenous Art, Inuit Art, and African Art. Everything in my life influences my art…. it can be a simple pattern on a napkin or pillow, or a reflection on a wall, or something I see on my daily walks.

Picture of Progress painting by Christina HaylettProgress, Christina Haylett

Art has saved me. I have met so many wonderful, interesting, unique and dedicated people in the arts. Creating art is an essential part of my health regime…. like walking every morning, eating good food, and spending time with family and friends.

--- Christina Haylett

 

Exhibition Events

Opening Reception
Thursday, January 19, 2023, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Artist Christina Haylett will speak at 6:00 pm.
Reception is free to the public. Complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served.

This exhibition reception will be the first, public, Zero Waste Event to be held at UM- Dearborn.


 

The Stamelos Gallery Center is located on the first floor of the Mardigian Library at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. For more information, see below for contact information. Anyone requiring accommodations under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact lacotton@umich.edu.

Featured University Art Collection Piece

Featured collection glass artwork

Taketori Tale, Kyohei Fujita (b. 1921), n.d., Mold blown glass with gold and silver foil inclusions
Gift of Richard and Louise Abrahams, Collection of UM-Dearborn (Adp39), Photograph by Kip Kriigel


World renowned artist Kyohei Fujita was born in Japan in 1921. He is known as the father of Japanese studio glass. Many of his works, including this one, were inspired by early Japanese boxes that were richly decorated with lacquerwork and mother-of-pearl inlays, and traditionally used to store Buddhist writings, jewelry, inkstones and brushes. Fujita's celebrated ornamental glass boxes revive conventional Japanese aesthetics in a contemporary form. This breathtaking piece was mold blown with gold and silver foil inclusions. Whenever asked by collectors what to keep in the boxes, the artist usually stated "You should put your dreams in them."

---Laura Cotton, Art Curator and Gallery Manager

Contact Us

  • Stamelos Gallery Center
  • 1st Floor, Mardigian Library, UM-Dearborn
  • 4901 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI 48128
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