Haley Nagy is an interdisciplinary artist who creates paintings, works on paper, textiles, artist books, prints and installations. Encaustic paint and handmade paper are her mediums of choice. A native of Fort Worth, TX, Haley graduated from TCU in 2005 with a degree in Art History. In 2012 she received an MFA in Interdisciplinary Book & Paper Arts from Columbia College Chicago. Haley resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, composer Zvonimir Nagy.
Art history, Catholic iconography, handicraft, feminism and the church have had a huge impact on the conceptual framework of my art, which often addresses themes such as death, memory, family/childhood, and more recently, identity, brides, and religious traditions.
The original impetus for my current line of inquiry stems from personal life experiences, particularly my past and present connection with the Baptist and Catholic Church and the contradictory beliefs that have resulted from a lifetime of internal rebellion against this strict religious upbringing.
The motivation for specific artworks often originates from a personal conflict; typically a paradoxical reaction to a religious teaching, tradition, value or principle as seen from my feminist perspective.
Using my own internal conflict as a jumping off point, these works often evolve away from a personal story towards a broader, more widespread narrative that can encompass a larger audience. Using materiality as a way to structure viewer experience, I strive to find a balance between merely sharing the personal or emotional and asking the viewer to have their own personal or emotional experience by engaging with my work. Through this I want people to use my artwork as a catalyst for critical discourse. The goal of my work isn’t necessarily to “take a stance” on controversial religious issues but to illuminate the tumultuous space in between apposing views. My work is a record of this journey, each new project representing a gained understanding of my place in this relationship.
As a natural progression from my research into the church and its impact on the lives of women, I have become interested in the “bride” – and by extension, the “bridal veil” – as an icon representing the conflicted relationship between the female body and the church. The “bride” is a jumbled and multi-layered symbol that is perfect as a metaphor for this relationship as she can simultaneously reference transformation and subjugation, beginnings and ends, concealing and revealing, chastity and fertility, and many other various rites of womanhood. By appropriating cultural symbols of the wedding tradition, particularly Catholic icons, I continue to explore the incongruous role of women in today’s society.
In choosing the format of my artworks I am drawn toward the media that best embodies and supports my ideas, ranging from artist books and mixed media works to performance and textile installations. When selecting my materials, I am nearly always drawn toward those with long histories and inherited references – i.e. books, knitting, handmade paper – as a way to fully saturate a piece with meaning, starting with the basic material itself and working up to the form and content. The individual history of the medium often has a direct influence on the symbolism or design of the final project. However, as a lifelong lover of reading, I frequently use the artist book format in order to harness the historical “power of the book” for my purposes and I purposefully engage the idea that the material itself holds meaning. I also have an inclination toward encaustic (wax) paint and handmade paper, both of which carry certain connotations and associations intrinsic to the medium, which I manipulate to suit a certain mood and aesthetic. As a matter of personal artistic tastes my artwork often incorporates a natural palette of tones that reference the skin or the body, since the body is the battleground on which many of the issues revolving around women and the church take place. Most recently I have become interested in textiles and the revival of knitting as an exciting new artistic media (with a long history, layered references and great popular interest) that has the power to appeal to an even broader audience of women than perhaps the artist book can on it’s own.