The palpable despondency at the abject failure of our nation’s pledge and our flag’s promise of freedom and justice are echoed more quietly in Jodi Hays, South of Hope (2020). The rectangles of diagrammatic cut canvas and linen painted in blues resemble an upside-down flag with the texture of denim. Hays is a native Arkansan like me, and South of Hope confronts women’s roles in traditional crafting and rural culture though the use of textile and the look of quilted jeans. In a rhyme of color with Marlos E'van’s Backwards Ideology (2020) on the same wall, the curators and artists make visible that America has yet to address wrong-sided legacies of our past. Backwards Ideology starkly repeats the letters n.u.g. again and again over 25 square feet of acrylic on canvas until the supremacy of guns is inescapable and overwhelming. Both artists also signal the doubling of troubles during the time of the pandemic. Hays’ approximately, forever (2020) takes the formal abstraction of collage to its logical end. The grid is both a useful organizing tool and a system of oppression. By the 20th century, the tyrannical hegemony of linear perspective and its symbolic form had to be undone by makers and historians in concert: the initial power of naturalism as the special rhetoric of artisans, the non-elite, became obsolete or was forgotten. When you realize that the system has been constructed so that you cannot win the game, no matter how hard you try, you must cheat-lie-steal and then smash the chessboard. If you don’t have the power, you must strive to change the collective memory. Change.
c. 2021 Jodi Hays