The delivery of all shop orders will be postponed until further notice. Sign up to our newsletter for updates or send us a note at

Cardboard collages with dye-saturated fabric—Jodi Hays’s work connects to her roots

Jodi Hays and Canaan
Left: Canaan. Right: Jodi Hays. Photo of Hays by Sam Angel Photography.

From a family of makers who pieced and quilted, Jodi Hays’s work connects to her roots through overlays of materials, corrugated cardboard collages sprayed with paint and dye-saturated, stitched fabric.

The artist, originally from rural Ankansas, now living and working in Tennessee, does not only stay close to her family but keeps vigorously involved with her community. From being a university-level curator for five years at Tennessee State University to bringing in performance artist Pope.L to film a documentary all around Nashville to running a pop-up called Dadu that has hosted work from many artists including Erika Ranee, Hays is a true contributor at heart.

We chatted with Hays about another one of her gigs, a pedagogical project called Southern Crits, what her work process is like and what she’s working on next.

Details of Canaan, Jodi Hays.
Details of Canaan. Jodi Hays. Dye, fabric, and cardboard collage on wood strainer, 2022.
Jacobs Ladder, Right: Detail. Jodi Hays.
Jacobs Ladder, Right: Detail. Jodi Hays. Dye and paper collage, 105 × 90 in (266.7 × 228.6 cm), 2022.

You’re originally from rural Arkansas, and you now live and work in Tennessee. In a podcast, you were asked where you feel at home and you said both the middle of nowhere and the center of it all. Tell us more about where and how you spend most of your days.

Jodi Hays: From Arkansas, and spent a large chunk of years in Boston. I feel most at home where my family is, and in museums. I have been at this long enough that my thought and studio life are connections that I have to art history and other’s work.

Your work is informed by the American South. What are your personal ties to quilting and mending traditions?

Jodi Hays: My family were/are makers, something from nothing. My great grandmother made hats. My grandmother made hospitality and meals. Most everyone pieced, even if they didn’t quilt. I connect to a story of resourcefulness that belies my origin, the underdogs.

Ghost. Right: Detail. Jodi Hays
Ghost, Right: Detail. Jodi Hays. Dye and cardbaord collage, 39 × 24 in (99.06 × 60.96 cm), 2023.

Your recent work is reflecting that. Overlays of materials—corrugated cardboard collages sprayed with paint and dye-saturated, stitched fabric. On your Instagram, you share more of what goes into the often larger-scale works. Can you describe your process?

Jodi Hays: The switch from more conventional materials to how I make a painting now was a slow drip. I had an itch to get off the confines of the stretcher bars I had on hand. 

A large part of my process is dying material–from boxes to textiles. I let the fibers soak in a dye bath. The dye travels through cardboard’s corrugation, tracking parallel striations of color. I take the flats, pieces of cardboard, let them dry and flatten. Then, I begin to arrange and connect them with adhesive. Much of the compositional consideration is prompted by a title from my list, or density of color.

What would you like the viewer to see in your work?

Jodi Hays: For viewers, I like for the work to function on several levels. Meaning, if you are looking for numbers, accessible and simple arithmetic, you find them. But if you are looking for New Math, complex, layered, algebraic, you can find that too. I would like to think that this habit of being, this way of moving in the art world, of care for viewers, comes from growing up in small communities of care.

How do you balance the creativity of being an artist with business and marketing demands?

Jodi Hays: I enjoy writing, perhaps indebted to growing up reading like crazy. Underestimated stories (mine are visual, and not narrative) from underestimated places deserve more attention. With this as an anchor and motivation, advocacy for the work (in the form of administration) may not be cool, but it is not a drag. Balance is a privilege, but I know how to rest.

Tell us about Southern Crits and how the project came together.

Jodi Hays: Southern Crits is one answer to a complex set of questions. It is a loose affiliation of artists and educators, informed by region but expansive in thinking. It is a discursive pedagogical project, asking if we can address mentoring and art education outside of capitalism, nepotism, and privilege. Kiss our Crits.

If you could give your past self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Jodi Hays: Let loose. 

What is the next project you’re working on?

Jodi Hays: I have a few group shows in the works, and have a solo show in early 2024. I am also excited to curate a group shows next year at the dodomu gallery and the Weatherspoon Museum of Art. Look for my interview with Sound and Vision in August. 

Jodi Hays behind her work