Paula Hayes’s living art intimately connects people with the natural environment. Both living sculptures and mini-ecosystems, Hayes’s body of work, spanning over two decades, forges new relationships among artwork, owner, and the natural and human environment. For Understory, Hayes transforms the Tang’s Payne Room into an immersive environment brimming with life. Part exhibition gallery, part lounge, and part dining room, the space features a forest of large silicone planters housing a field of Norfolk pine trees, a series of her exquisite hand-blown glass terrariums, home to a variety of plants and gems, and new wallpaper and dinnerware she has custom-designed for this exhibition.
Over the course of a year, Understory will host many dialogues and events, including a series of themed dinners related to Hayes’s innovative practice, as well as the Tang’s tenth anniversary celebration. Served on Hayes’s hand-crafted dinnerware, the menus will highlight sustainable agriculture and seasonal eating with locally raised food, some from Skidmore’s own student garden, prepared by Skidmore Executive Chef Jim Rose in consultation with Hayes. Through the year the space will develop and change as the plant life grows and as visitors interact with the artworks and each other. In this way the exhibition extends the Tang’s belief in museum space as a laboratory for exploring and debating the intersection of art, the environment, and the future.