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 Charlestown City Paper, Provincetown Arts Magazine, The Boston Globe, Time Out NY, Provincetown Banner, Provincetown Magazine, Bedford Magazine 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. Hay's work was a semi-finalist for Art For Freedom A Global Initiative encouraging creative expression that brings awareness to Human Rights Violations juried by Madonna.
Hay was also the main subject of a documentary "She is Juiced" by British director Lois Norman. It was screened at The Tate Modern in 2017 as part of the ground-breaking Queer Britain Exhibition and the London Pride launch 2017. The film has received rave reviews and recently became nominated for best documentary at the New Renaissance Film Festival in Amsterdam.
Inspired by the current political climate, currently Hay is working on an ongoing series of portrait paintings Persisters featuring outstanding women who have made an impression with their tenacious resolve to succeed in their pursuit of justice as they perceive it.
The overarching theme of my recent portraits is the acknowledgment of human courage through self-expression.
Persisters is an ongoing series of portrait paintings of outstanding women who have made an impression with their tenacious resolve to succeed in their pursuit of justice. The series was inspired by Hillary Clinton, breaking the glass ceiling to become the first female democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2016. Currently, I am making individual large-scale paintings of Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez and Bob Bland, the four national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, 2017— likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history. Prior to the march, these brilliant, impassioned and remarkable young women have devoted much of their lives to uncompromising activism for human rights and social justice.
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.
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. Having had a lifelong 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. By attaching the familiar and seemingly well-loved rabbit image to a larger subject matter, I can draw attention to greater concerns I have such as the importance of environmental protection or acknowledge the death of a particularly influential cultural figure.