Art of Hayden Dunham: Not all Forms are Equal

With a background in environmental studies and a personal interest in our geological surroundings, Hayden Dunham’s art ponders questions of the interaction between human existence, our bodies and our presence, and byproducts of the industrialized world, chemicals, emissions, and pollution.

How have we evolved to adapt and embody these byproducts? How have we learned to co-exist and co-evolve with carcinogens and pathogens?

Dunham’s ever-changing and evolving work investigates these questions, illuminating how an art object can mimic movement and form.

Dunham’s art, which various in medium, taking the form of sculpture, installation, performance, video, sound and text, forces these differences to be seen, to be recognized for their limitations.

Dunham’s interest “in object making [began when she] realized that art had the ability to change how people feel about a subject.”

And indeed, environmental and ecological conversations are often polarizing and create drifts and tensions between individuals. Her projects slowly confront the collision between material and body and the consequences of these two interactions.

Will the body remain constant even under the pressure of the ever-changing chemical composition of our world? How do external systems influence and change our internal infrastructure?

Our surroundings affect our body and influence our movements and presence, including interactions unseen and unrecognized.

What is not seen, what does not create immediate reactions, can create the severest effects in the way we live, but we often are not able to recognize these differences.

Dunham grapples with these notions and questions in uncomfortable and confrontation ways, drinking chlorophyll from water and dramatically fainting backwards onto cushions, melting tires in her sculptures, choreographing music, poetry, video projections and scents to highlight the ways in which oil has morphed from a natural source of healing and sustenance to a source of labor and exhaustion.

Dunham’s work is backed by environmental research, visitations to power plants in China, Iceland and Texas. Each location representing an “energetic hotspot”: a place where steam is used for energy, and water is oxygenated to treat a viral disease.

Impassive sculptures stand in these hotspots. Closer examination reveals these impassive sculptures to come to life; a faucet drips black liquid, pooling into a stream that borders liquid and solid, ice melting beneath a staircase, transitioning from one state of being to another–solid to liquid, liquid to solid, gas to liquid.

These transformations highlight the idea that some things can be healing in one state and toxic in another; silica is harmless in its liquid form, but in its powder form, if breathed in, can be dangerous, remaining in your lung tissue and resulting in extreme illness.

Each work outlines a relationship that revolves around cause and effect, or control and consent; when there is no control things can get out of hand and the effect can be devastating. 

All artwork is copyright the artist.

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