1 of 2
Courtesy of Bryan Haynes
Above The Beyond, 2012, is a 60-by-80-inch acrylic painting on canvas from the collection of Dennis and Shelia Hammond.
2 of 2
Courtesy of Bryan Haynes
Notes On A Staff, 2012, is a 40-by-60-inch acrylic painting on canvas from the collection of Dennis and Shelia Hammond.
By Jonas Weir
A riverside fiddle jam in Depression- era America. Osage warriors hunting bison through Missouri’s snow-covered forests. The construction of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in 1960s St. Louis. These scenes inspire Bryan Haynes, and they are the subjects of his paintings, from small canvases to expansive murals.
At its core, Bryan’s artwork is definitely Missourian. His style has been called neoregionalism, which nods to the regionalist painters of the 1930s. This group of painters, which included Missourian Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, John Steuart Curry, and other Midwesterners, viewed the American heartland through a realist, pastoral lens, in an attempt to boost the morale of the country during one its most trying times—the Great Depression. Bryan’s work, however, is an homage to great American painters.
“I definitely think it’s bold to say that I’m the next in line,” Bryan says. “But I understand why they were called regionalists because the landscape begins to dictate how you portray the land.”
Bryan owns up to the regionalists’ influence, but he’s not trying to copy their style. Bryan’s Missouri heritage has played a large role in shaping his paintings, including their subject and aesthetics.
“The land dictates my style, and the style then expresses the landscape and the people,” Bryan says.
Missouri’s landscapes affect his art, though a painting’s aesthetics are not everything to Bryan. He has always been attracted to art, but he has also been attracted to what art can communicate, rather than just colors, shapes, and textures.
“As an illustrator, I’m really fascinated by telling stories visually,” he says. “I have always wanted to do this since I was a kid. I have to do that because it’s my passion.”
Storytelling is an obvious motif in his work. Many of his paintings reference local legends from around the state; others focus on scenes from the state’s factual history, such as people building the Kauffman Performing Arts Center or a German festival in nineteenth-century Hermann. But Bryan was not always creating art with Missouri in mind.
With encouragement from his parents, Bryan attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, in 1980. There, he explored Western landscapes, but they couldn’t trump those of his home state.
“Having been away from Missouri, it really makes you see it anew when you return, and then you take it less for granted—all the beauty that’s here,” he says.
The return home definitely led to some of his best work, but the prestigious Art Center College of Design and its rigorous program pushed Bryan to continue as a professional artist. The first path that his artistic career took was commercial artwork. His pieces ranged from a Celestial Seasonings advertisement to Safeway ice cream packaging.
Not all of his art was commercial, but this background led to a fruitful thirty-year career of working for various clients. If anything, art school and time outside of Missouri fostered diversity in his work. Some of his designs have been mass-produced, such as a piece he made for an Agatha Christie book cover. Some have been portraits commissioned by families, and some have been purely personal. With each project, Bryan has developed his skills, gained confidence, and refined his art’s magnetism.
His evolution has never been more apparent than in his new book, New Regionalism: The Art of Bryan Haynes, a Missouri Life Media publication. And the timing of the book’s release seems spot on.
“It seemed like a place in my life when I had done a breadth of work that could be encompassed in a book,” Bryan says. “It had enough range to be interesting, from illustrations to murals and everything in between. I had so many people asking if they could purchase a portfolio that I thought it’s time for a book.”
Bryan’s work has changed gradually, but comparing paintings makes his newfound confidence obvious. Look at the Nourish mural that was done for Novus International as an example. The mural incorporates Mother Earth imagery, the double helix, and various fauna. It is wildly imaginative and breaks the constraints of his early landscapes. By no means is Nourish better than one of his landscapes or history paintings, but it showcases the confidence and range of Bryan Haynes, an artist as diverse as the state which inspires him.