Stephen Hayes – Brookes Ship
Dimensions: 61 x 37 x 3.5”
Medium: mixed media with wood
This diagram of the ‘Brookes’ slave ship is probably the most widely copied and powerful image used by those campaigning to abolish the slave trade in the late 18th century. Created in 1787, the image illustrates how enslaved Africans were transported to the Americas and depicts a slave ship loaded to its full capacity – 454 people crammed into the hold. The ‘Brookes’ sailed the passage from Liverpool via the west coast of Africa to islands in the Caribbean.
Stephen L. Hayes, Jr. makes art—woodcuts, sculptures, installations small and large—from found materials that draw on social and economic themes ingrained in the history of America and African-Americans. His approach is simple: “If I can’t find it, I’ll make it. If I can’t 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 new major led to a ceramics course, where his enthusiasm and skill led to being allowed as much time as he wanted on the wheel. He threw enough pots to develop a strong portfolio, leading to a residency at the acclaimed New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Hayes earned an MFA in sculpture at 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, a 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.