Art Maker: Haley McDevitt, painter

  • Painter Haley McDevitt, a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, blends in here a bit with one of her larger works. Photo courtesy of Haley McDevitt

  • An abstract work of oil paint and pastel by Haley McDevitt. Image courtesy of Haley McDevitt

  • An abstract work of oil paint and pastel by Haley McDevitt. Image courtesy of Haley McDevitt

  • An abstract work of oil paint and pastel by Haley McDevitt. Image courtesy of Haley McDevitt

Published: 7/11/2019 4:22:34 PM
Modified: 7/11/2019 4:22:24 PM

Painter Haley McDevitt, who graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst this past spring, has already made her presence known in the area, from some solo shows at UMass and participation in several group exhibits, most notably in Easthampton, where she served as an intern with Easthampton City Arts.

McDevitt says she’s particularly inspired by art that can convey emotions and inner thoughts. “I find the expressionistic value of art as a method of communication liberating,” she says. “To be able to paint something I can’t necessarily find the right words to say is what defines a successful piece of artwork to me.”

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you're currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Haley McDevitt: My current series of abstract paintings adorned with chalk pastel attempt to capture presence in a fleeting moment. In the digital era, I find it quite easy to slip into the imaginative purgatory of absent mindlessness, clouded by the vastness of presence surpassing what’s actually in front of me.

Mindfulness is something that I am attempting to bring closer to myself, and my current series of self-portraits is a representation of the lack thereof: of how it feels and seems to be without the practice.

HL: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

HM: I draw inspiration from my emotions. I follow my instincts, ideas, and notions of restlessness and uncertainty as a compass, allowing them to work cooperatively with the colors and shapes to bring the paintings to life.

Sometimes I’ll step back from a painting and have a “Eureka!” moment about the way a certain yellow is peeking out from behind a blue, or how the paint builds a barrier between areas or symbols.

HL: How do you know when your work is finished?

HM: There are times when a painting will immediately let me know when it is finished. Other times, it isn’t so obvious. I find it helpful to put a painting aside for days, weeks, maybe even months, before I begin to realize what’s missing or how it should evolve. 

HL: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

HM: Tracey Emin and Louise Bourgeois. The autobiographical, confessional, and honest nature of their work is incredibly important to me. 

HL: What's the most recent exhibition/concert/book reading/other event by another artist or group that you've attended and enjoyed?

HM: Visiting the “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future” exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York was an awe-inspiring experience. To view the first definitively abstract paintings in person felt as though I was being told an incredible secret coming to the public. 

HL: What do you do when you're stuck?

HM: There are different remedies for different levels of “stuck.” If the physical object feels stuck but the act of painting is still demanding, it’s as easy as flipping the canvas, stepping back a few feet, or viewing the painting through the lens of a camera. Other times, I might need to refuel and rest for a few hours or the night to be able to return to work with a fresh outlook.

If I’m stuck for prolonged amounts of time, I try to find little pieces of inspiration in the everyday: sketching, writing poetry, and listening to music or a podcast. 

— Steve Pfarrer

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