First Amendment Gallery is showing Please Hold, a solo exhibition by Baltimore-based painter Rachel Hayden. This new body of work is inspired by universal emotions and symbols, including the hands and the sensation of touch, the moon, rain, sweat, and tears. Hayden communicates in clear and concise imagery to evoke an empathetic understanding of each thematic inclusion, a nod to her employment as an early childhood educator at an art museum. 

Hayden describes her practice as such: “In painting, I’m seeking logic and control in the mess of life. I’m searching for a concise visual description of a floaty feeling, or a falling feeling. I’m making a collection of small acrylic paintings using recurring images: gentle hands, drops of sweat and tears, and the sun and moon. These images are ubiquitous, but in my work, I like to think of them as my own set of icons. Over time, I am developing a personal language, using these repeat images as characters in my alphabet.

When beginning a new painting, I like to approach a difficult or ambiguous feeling with childlike simplicity. Using pure, bright colors and simple shapes I create an ensemble cast of subjects: myself, the sun, the moon, hands, teardrops, raindrops and sweat drops. When choosing images to paint, I look for the constants — things that will always be part of my life, but whose significance may change when placed in different scenarios. By adopting these images into my alphabet, I feel a new love and ownership of them and they become my prized possessions. They are game pieces I can move around on a board, knick-knacks I can organize on a shelf, or magnets arranged on a refrigerator door. A handful of bits and pieces shuffled around can create different stories, and as my alphabet of images grows and changes the stories I tell slowly shift. In painting, I have power to playfully manipulate forces greater than myself, and find control over my own visual narrative.”