An hour before I arrive at her SoHo studio apartment, the 25-year-old Chicago-born artist Jeanette Hayes tweets, “i wonder if oscar murillo likes young scooter.” And then, “I’ve been painting an eyeball for 3 hours now just fyi.” Inside, I find Hayes working on two large paintings, the second and third from her De Mooning series, in which female characters from the Japanese shoji manga series Sailor Moon are juxtaposed against Willem de Kooning’s Women paintings. To make these boisterous works, Hayes first arranges the collage in Photoshop, choosing images for similarities in color and form, and then spends months fastidiously copying abstract brushstrokes and illustrative cartoons onto canvas. In this way, she marries two divergent styles by hand. “Throughout history, the first decade of most artists’ careers is pure re-creation,” she says. “Caravaggio, Rembrandt—everyone. I think of these works as master study, with commentary.”
As Hayes paints, her phone dings almost constantly with messages from her 14,000 followers on Twitter and 10,000 on Instagram. She tweets nearly every hour and checks the internet every 15 minutes—”Just quick glances,” she says to me, “like I’m doing while I talk to you.” These seemingly distracted acts are folded into the second, digital component of her art, which she considers discrete from painting. It involves her various social-media outlets, html collages, animated GIFs—she’s been in several GIF-themed group exhibitions—and phone-edited videos. “For a few years, I used a Tumblr [blog] as a blank canvas,” Hayes says. “I don’t keep a traditional sketchbook. I think of the internet as my sketchbook.”
Hayes often includes images of herself in her online work, and her persona has become inextricable from her art. With her signature platinum hair and red lipstick, she is often photographed at parties and openings and seemingly known as much for her web presence as she is for her work. Just over a year after she graduated from Pratt Institute, in 2011, she showed her paintings at New York’s Half Gallery alongside those of Jemima Kirke, the actress from Girls. Hayes’s work carries a constant awareness of her place in culture as she ping-pongs between its high-art and low-pop poles—a position that increasingly seems to define young, post-internet artists of all disciplines. Her early paintings, for instance, depict locked iPhone screens with celebrated Renaissance artworks as their digital wallpaper, rendered photo-realistically in oil paint. Like those, Hayes’s De Mooning series, which will show at New York’s Thierry Goldberg gallery this fall, attempts to balance the joys of the candy-coated with those of the abstract art canon, as if by spanning the spectrum of our aesthetic pleasures, she might provide something for everyone.