I have to be honest. Meeting Nathan Hayden was a complete and utter surprise. A very nice surprise, but not at all a planned one. When I turned up to his home in Santa Barbara, I arrived to meet and photograph his lovely fiancee and fellow artist, Hannah Vainstein. However, it really didn't take me all that long before I was also drawn into Nathan's work and talent. He quickly became one of the most interesting fellows I have ever had the pleasure of meeting (his fabulous answers below attest to that). I just had to photograph him as well. First it was a chat on the porch over a cup of tea, then it was into the studio where Nathan introduced me to his tiny hand drawn and poetry filled cards - the starting point and inspiration for his larger art works. It was then that I became completely and positively dazed by the massive piece of felt that Nathan was currently working on. Never had I seen such a meticulous and perfect hand drawn creation. I watched as Nathan took off his shoes, dipped his paintbrush into the ink and then begin working on the felt. So much detail, so much precision. The music was on and in between brush strokes, Nathan would burst into a moment of improvised dance, moving freely and smiling cheekily. I could have easily been transported back to the 70's - the psychedelic art and free momentary dance was a little piece of studio heaven. This is what I live for. To meet people and moments like this.
What projects are you currently working on?
I work in multiple mediums but for me it’s all part of one ongoing project. I dance for an hour a day to induce visions and from those visions I make pictures, objects and installations. I have an ongoing series of large-scale wall drawings. I just finished a 23 x 18 foot ink drawing on the back wall of CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles called, How the Medicine Sees and another that covers all the walls of the entrance at UCSB’s AD & A Museum called Shaman of the North, Shaman of the South. These large pieces pull viewers into a space and give them an atmospheric jolt.
I’m also contributing some very small drawings to the show at CB 1 from an ongoing series I call the cards. As an installation artist, scale shift is important to me when I think about the construction of a space. I often think of my very large and very small-scale drawings as gestures of infinity.
The other drawings that I am currently working on are made by applying ink to industrial felt. These pieces add another texture to the work and possess a certain haptic quality that I associate with the handmade. In addition I have also started a clay project for which I am making objects that I look like a combination of geometric shapes found in ancient currency, alphabets and architecture combined with organic forms found in nature. I am not sure what I will do with these yet. Right now I am just playing.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
A: My surroundings and daily activities, especially music and dancing, but gardening, hiking, sex, reading and napping are some of my other favorite ways to induce visions.
Why a visual artist?
I’ve had a very strong drive to make images/objects since I was very young. Spending the first eight years of my life living with my family in log cabin built by my father in rural West Virginia, I began early explorations of drawing and woodcarving and developed interests in the naturally occurring forms and patterns I encountered while playing in the woods. These early influences and childhood experiences played a huge part in shaping me into the maker I have become.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, would you be so kind to share some of your favorite artists?
Yes. As I mentioned above music is a major fuel for the dancing and the work. I don’t think what I would make would exist without music and my favorite artists would be a long list. I’m all over the map. Lately I’ve been listening to Swans and Death Grips for late night intensity, Parquet Courts, War on Drugs, Thee Oh Sees and Future Islands for irresistible indie pop/rock, William Onyeabor and Todd Terje for uncontrollable dancing and couple of compilations, one of Haitian big band music called Haitii Direct and another of 60’s Tropicalia called Bossa Nova for summertime-porchtime dancing and chilling.
Do you have a morning ritual?
Black tea with lots of milk in my favorite mug.
What's your idea of a perfect Friday night?
On the porch with friends.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve been really curious about Mexico City, Tokyo (and rural Japan). We have a friend in Rio that we really want to visit, and I last time I was in Berlin we had a really good time, I’d love to go back.
Best piece of advice you've ever given or been given?
That’s a tossup. Here is a list that comes to mind:
If you can’t do someone a good turn, don’t do them a bad one… Similar to the golden rule, seems like a good way to live.
Surround yourself in light and be careful what energy you follow are two pieces advice that are quite abstract, but I think of them as basic ways of protecting yourself energetically.
Buddha brain that shit! Supposedly it’s human nature to be more likely remember bad things that have happened than good things. Supposedly it’s also more likely for positive things to happen in the future/present if you have more positive memories. Apparently Buddha became conscious of this and every time he found himself recalling something negative about a relationship he would try switch to memories about the good times. So, if your friends are bugging the shit out of you and it’s causing you to remember all the ills they have ever unleashed upon you, try thinking about all the good times you’ve had together and see if you can’t turn the day around. Basically, think positive…Did I just write an intro to a self help book?
What's for dinner?
Chips and home made guacamole. The avocados are a powerful reason to live in California.
The best part about being a creative?
When the visions come through me. It’s a privilege to receive visions and be able to bring them into this reality as images/objects and I’m grateful to have the chance to do it.
The worst part?
The magic moments make it all worthwhile, but it’s an immense amount of work and can be terribly physically and mentally fatiguing.
Day or night? Night.
Old or new? New to me.
City or Country? I’ve seen beauty and desolation in both, but I from deep in the country.
Coffee or Tea? Tea
What do you enjoy most about living in Santa Barbara?
As I mentioned before, I dance one hour each day to induce visions from which I make my work. The surrounding landscape has always been very influential to the visions I conjure, so that is what drew me here. It’s nestled between the ocean and the mountains so the lay of the land changes quite quickly, providing me with a lot of visual information to synthesize and make images/objects from.
Thoughts for the future:
Onward and upward. I’m remembering all of the good times I’ve had with high hopes that there are more to come.