Growing up in sleepy Opelika, Alabama in the 1960’s, Dirk Hays escaped his small town world by visually digesting a steady diet of cartoons, comics, Mad magazine, hot rod culture ‘zines, popular TV, and music of the day. Add to that a sign painter/artist father, readily available art supplies, and an overwhelming desire to make things with his own hands, and Hays’ path was clear. During his teens, he discovered underground comics and psychedelic art, which heavily influenced his drawing style. While in high school, he would often help his father hand lettering signs and silk screening, but desired his own freedom of self expression.
Hays graduated Auburn University in 1982 with a BFA degree in Visual Communications and moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in advertising. The DIY energy of the punk rock art scene in Atlanta lured him away from his corporate job after a few years. He worked as a freelance designer and began teaching himself to paint. Hays participated in numerous regional group shows in the 1980’s, as well as several solo shows at various Atlanta galleries. At that time. he began working at The Center for Puppetry Arts, co-designing, building sets, puppets, and directing several critically acclaimed shows.
In 1994, he learned to tattoo and opened his own shop, which he ran for 14 years. He owned an art gallery next door to his tattoo shop, where he curated a number of highly anticipated shows that featured national and international artists working in the pop surrealist-lowbrow genre. His work is in private home collections across the country and Australia, and has been featured in local publications.
Dirk’s sensibility is clearly rooted in the pop culture iconography of the last half century. His current body of work grabs his audience on a gut level, allowing them to frame it’s imagery within their own unique experience and personal context.
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