Jo Hay is a contemporary British American portrait painter whose work focuses on acknowledging human courage characterized by those who dare to stand up and express who they are or what they believe.
Originally from Newcastle Upon-Tyne, England, Hay lives and works in Provincetown MA. She received her BA from Middlesex University, London, UK and her MFA from the New York Academy of Art, NY, NY.
Her work has been featured in numerous publications including Provincetown Arts Magazine, The Boston Globe, Time Out NY, Provincetown Banner, Provincetown Magazine, Bedford Magazine and Art Galleries and Artists of the South.
Hay was the first recipient of the Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation Grant 2010 sponsored in part by the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and the recipient of the New York Academy of Art Portrait Scholarship 2011. Her portrait from her Benders series entitled Dodger was a semi-finalist in the BP Portrait Award 2015 at the National Gallery in London.
Currently Hay is working on her series entitled Benders which are large-scaled oil paintings of individuals who consider themselves of neither fixed male or female gender but instead gender fluid.
Inspired by the current political climate Hay is also developing a series of large-scale portraits of women who are making outstanding efforts with regard to human rights.
The overarching theme of my recent portraits is the acknowledgment of human courage through self-expression. Wishing to examine our psychological and biological perception of ‘male’ and ‘female’, the Benders series portrays individuals who do not choose to be labeled either male or female but instead describe themselves as gender fluid—they experience and express an innate sense of both sexes. Since childhood, when I first witnessed the flamboyantly styled androgynous members of UK glam rock bands of the 1970’s and later the drag queens and transsexuals on the streets in 1990’s NYC, I have been captivated and delighted by the visual and emotional confusion that gender duality produces.
An encounter with a figure that holds the possibility of both sexes is jarringly potent and hypnotically seductive to me. I make large-scale paintings to echo the overwhelming physical and emotional charge I feel from this allure. Always focusing on achieving a strong sense of anatomical form I let some areas of the painting fall away into abstraction in an effort to reflect the dissolving and resolving nature of gender in flux. Overall, I want to engage the viewer in a comparable disarming seduction with my subject.
The rabbit paintings, which I also consider portraits, are a place for me to find new ways of constructing a living figure without being concerned with facial likeness or gender. Instead I am forced to closely examine each rabbit's physical differences to make the portrait unique. Ultimately, this focused study of anatomy allows me to have greater control over the looseness of the paintwork. Having had a lifetime connection with the rabbit as a symbol of comfort, both it’s familiarity and its fecundity seems to willingly support my continual experimentation with mark making while allowing me time and space to contemplate my unequivocal belief in animal consciousness.