Donté K. Hayes graduated summa cum laude from Kennesaw State University at Kennesaw, Georgia with a BFA in Ceramics and Printmaking with an art history minor. Hayes received his MA and MFA with honors from the University of Iowa and is the 2017 recipient of the University of Iowa Arts Fellowship. Recent art exhibitions include group shows at the Trout Museum of Art, Appleton, Wisconsin, the Newark Museum of Art, Newark, New Jersey, and the 2021 Atlanta Biennial at the Atlanta Contemporary in Georgia. Donté’s artwork has been presented at the 1-54 art fair, London, England, Design Miami, Florida, and a solo presentation at the 2021 Armory Show art fair in New York City. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., The Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas, the Newark Museum of Art, Newark, New Jersey, the Wellin Museum of Art, Clinton, New York, the Stanley Museum of Art, Iowa City, Iowa, the Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa, and the Institute Museum of Ghana, Accra, Ghana among others.
Donté is a 2019 Ceramics Monthly Magazine Emerging Artists and Artaxis Fellow. Hayes has been in residence at the Bemis Center, Omaha, Nebraska, Township 10, Marshall, North Carolina, Penland School of Craft, Penland, North Carolina, the Hambidge Center, Rabun Gap, Georgia, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine and Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, Newcastle, Maine. Donté is the Grand Prize winner of the “Coined in the South: 2022” exhibition at the Mint Museum. He is also the 2019 winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern art from the Gibbes Museum of Art. Donté K. Hayes is represented by Mindy Solomon Gallery in Miami, Florida.
My research has focused on the pineapple as a symbol representing welcoming and hospitality. Through this inquiry, the tradition of the pineapple as a symbol of hospitality is rooted in slavery and agricultural colonization of South America, the Caribbean, and the Southern United States, particularly South Carolina and my home state of Georgia. When slave ships bringing enslaved Africans docked at the wharf, the foremen placed a pineapple on a spike. The pineapple, now the beacon to identify a new shipment of enslaved Africans, has arrived. Thus, originating the pineapple is a symbol for welcoming.
From this investigation my art practice pulls from my interest in hip-hop culture, history, and science fiction. The artwork references the visual traditions from the Southern United States, the Caribbean, South America, and the African continent. I utilize printmaking, installation, and performance to elevate the importance of my ceramic sculptures as a historical and creative base material to inform memories of the past. The handling of clay reveals the process and shares the markings of its maker. Ceramics becomes a bridge to conceptually integrate disparate objects and or images for the purpose of creating new understandings and connections with the material, history, and social-political issues. Through linking traditional African initiation rites of birth, adulthood, marriage, eldership, and ancestry which are essential to human growth and development to the greater African diaspora. I compare the construction and deconstruction of materials to the remix in rap music and how human beings adapt to different environments and reinvent new identities. These ceramic objects are vessels, each making symbolic allusions to the black body.
The artwork suggests the past, discusses the present, and explores possible futures interconnected to the African Diaspora. While also examining deeper social issues which broaden the conversation between all of humanity.