Behind-the-Scenes of the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Newest Exhibit

Tue., Jun. 21, 2022

We caught up with artist Rachel Hayes for a Q&A about the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s stunning new summer exhibit Awake in Every Sense opening Saturday, June 25th

What can visitors expect when they come to see your installation at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

Graphic site-lines of color are installed throughout the gardens to highlight interesting points, long distances, and keep the eyes searching while walking the various trails. The sewn works will interact with the weather on any given day. The work may be gently swaying with the wind, or catch light dappling through the trees. When I am with my work outdoors, and notice these small moments of interaction, I become more present and in the moment, and I hope others have unique experiences as well, even if they are fleeting.

How did the plants and trees in the outdoor gardens inspire you?

The botanical garden provides a distinctive environment for me to respond to, including impressive tree heights, dynamic angles, and a rich color palette. This is an exhilarating way to work as an artist, because I am not starting with a ‘blank canvas’, rather I am presented with a different set of opportunities and constraints to consider, as well as taking the weather into account. I won’t be using any poles or trusses, and I’ll go to great lengths to minimize my footprint.

I also thought about how all the colors will interact with nature’s palette of greens and earth tones. I think it will be striking, not unlike seeing blooms or sunsets peeking through the landscape. We are letting the trees dictate where the work hangs, since we are depending on them for their strength and height, while of course, taking good care to be gentle.

What do you love most about plants and trees?

The trees and plants are delightful follies to collaborate with, and as much as we (installation team) plan how the installation will go, I am sure we will also be using our intuition and beautiful moments that we can’t even anticipate are sure to reveal themselves. This is what I love most about working with and around plants and trees. We will be working in the present, and in the moment together.

Rachel Hayes was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lives and works in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hayes received her BFA in Fiber from the Kansas City Art Institute, and her MFA in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University. Often using fabric to create large-scale work, she is interested in inserting color and form into both built and natural environments. She is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Award in Painting and Sculpture, Augustus Saint-Gaudens Memorial Fellowship in Sculpture, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Professional Fellowship in Sculpture, Virginia Commission for the Arts Fellowship in Sculpture, and a Charlotte Street Fund Award. Hayes has collaborated with the Italian fashion house Missoni, culminating with a solo exhibition during Milan Design Week. Her work has been covered by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Cut, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Artforum among others.


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