Blake Haygood has always been fascinated with machinery and ideas of things that don’t exist.
As a kid growing up in Forsyth, Ga., this idea took form in the science fiction he read. Today, as a working artist and part owner of the Platform Gallery in Seattle, Haygood is intrigued by fanciful objects like free-floating gears that break apart. Reborn, retooled and repurposed, these objects find their way into his art.
In Haygood’s Missoula Art Museum exhibit, Depending on Your Perspective It Might be OK, the images suggest workability and impossibility, humor with a touch of despair. While the constituent parts are recognizable enough—mechanical even—the shrapnel cast off of these objects signals they are no longer workable, no longer functional. The relationship of these objects to their former function is an impossible one and somehow, says Haygood, “humorous and goofy, sad and falling apart.”
The MAM exhibit is Haygood’s first in Montana and consists of prints, paintings and drawings he created between 2000 and 2007. MAM curator of exhibitions Steve Glueckert first saw Haygood’s work at the Platform Gallery on a trip to Seattle. That was nearly three years ago and the two have been trying since to bring Haygood’s work to Missoula.
“After I saw his work it became like a favorite movie” in that it was something Glueckert wanted everyone to experience. “Art can affect you in that way,” he says. “I don’t expect everyone to share my passion for his work but the quality is pretty remarkable, his process is ritualistic. It reminds me that humor is serious business.”
Walking into the gallery where Haygood’s work is on display Glueckert’s enthusiasm is evident.
“Does this look like a guy who went to art school to you? He is prolific and consistent,” says Glueckert. “And to top it off the surfaces are so lush you want to touch them, run your finger across them. That doesn’t even have to do with the images.”
As it happens, Haygood never went to art school. After graduating in 1988 with a degree in industrial design from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Haygood spent a few years in Juneau, Alaska, working, among other things, as a fry cook and figuring out how to spend his time working as an artist. He’d made art as a kid, he says, but didn’t know any artists, didn’t know how an art career could be practical or how to pursue one.
But in 1992 he moved to Seattle to do just that. He considered going back to school to study art though decided against it because it was too expensive. Instead, Haygood got a job at an art supply company and began meeting other artists. He got his first studio in 1995 and had his first show in 1996. He continued making art. In 2004, he and three other artists founded the Platform Gallery in part to show work by artists who they knew were not represented by a gallery. Haygood retains a role as one of the gallery’s owners.
His work has a consistent style and tone. His pieces are quiet and strong as is his limited palette. They are subtle and contemplative, playful and funny. Glueckert suggests Haygood’s work is paradoxical.
“Each machine seems to fall apart even as it almost
functions,” writes Glueckert in an essay introducing Haygood’s work to museum guests. “On one hand we experience the refinement of an artist working with a surgeon’s precision, and on the other we are exposed to the absurdity of machines operating although damaged and disintegrating.”
Haygood’s new-est work, the prints in the MAM exhibit (which also includes paintings completed earlier), amplify the contradiction as elements fall apart to an even greater degree than in his previous work. It’s a bit of a commentary, says Haygood, on the political state of the world.
“The tone is scary at times,” he says, “but not bleak. It is not didactic or time specific. It’s a narrative and then it’s not. It’s missing bits and pieces and big chunks so that we may be able to draw our own conclusions about it.”
Haygood says the tone he tries to hit most often is bittersweet.
“We are constantly as humans breaking down,” says Haygood. “The more we get the more we fall apart. And there is nothing else you do but keep going.”
Blake Haygood’s Depending on Your Perspective It Might Be OK is on display at the Missoula Art Museum through July 28. Haygood speaks at a First Friday artist reception at MAM on Friday, June 1, at 7 PM.