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1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art

2020 Winner

Stephen L. Hayes, Jr.

Stephen L. Hayes, Jr. creates masterpieces—woodcuts, sculptures, installations small and large—from found materials that draw on social and economic themes ingrained in the history of the U.S. and African Americans. His approach is simple: “If I can’t find it, I’ll make it. If I cannot make it, I’ll find it.” He went to North Carolina Central University, aiming to transfer to North Carolina State University to study mechanical engineering. Instead, through a friend, he discovered graphic design. His newfound major led to a ceramics course, where his enthusiasm and skill granted him unlimited access to the pottery wheel. He threw enough pots to develop a strong portfolio, earning him a residency at the acclaimed New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Hayes received a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. His thesis exhibition, “Cash Crop,” has been traveling and exhibiting for nearly a decade. Frequently in his work, Hayes uses three symbols: a pawn, corn and a horse to explore America’s use (or misuse) of black bodies, black minds and black labor. Artists, he believes, are as much translators as they are creators.