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Jeffrey R. Hayes: In Memoriam

posted by CAA — Oct 24, 2012

Tanya J. Tiffany is associate professor of art history in the Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Jeffrey Hayes

Jeffrey R. Hayes

Jeffrey R. Hayes, professor of art history and director of the master’s degree program in liberal studies at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, died on June 18, 2012. Hayes was an exceptional scholar, teacher, and colleague, and a pioneering figure in the field of outsider art in the United States.

Hayes received his BA in history from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1967. Following his service as captain in the US Army during the Vietnam War (from which he received an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector), Hayes returned to his native Maryland. In 1972 he earned an MLA in the history of ideas at Johns Hopkins University; the multidisciplinary scope of that program introduced him to art history. A decade later he completed his PhD in art history at the University of Maryland, where he worked under the guidance of Elizabeth Johns, who became a lifelong mentor and friend.

Hayes’s expertise in American art was far reaching. Building on his dissertation research, his first major scholarly works included an exhibition and catalogue as well as two groundbreaking monographs on the modernist painter Oscar Bluemner: Oscar Bluemner: Landscapes of Sorrow and Joy (Washington, DC: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1988) and Oscar Bluemner (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991). Hayes then turned his attention to curating exhibitions and writing catalogues on major collections and figures in outsider art, including Common Ground/Uncommon Vision: The Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art, which was coauthored with Russell Bowman and Lucy Lippard and published by the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1993; The Art of Carl McKenzie (Milwaukee: UWM Art Museum, 1994); and Signs of Inspiration: The Art of Prophet William J. Blackmon (Milwaukee: Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, 1999).

Jeffrey Hayes OscarBluemner

In recent years Hayes returned to his research on Bluemner’s art with the volume Bluemner on Paper (New York: Barbara Mathes Gallery, 2005), and at the time of his death he was writing about the Wisconsin sculptors Mona Webb and Thomas Owen Every, known as Dr. Evermor. In addition to his many influential publications, Hayes also received prestigious awards and fellowships from institutions including the Smithsonian, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Philosophical Society.

From 1982 until his death, Hayes taught in the Department of Art History at University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where he also served as department chair from 1989 until 1996. In 2000, he founded the master’s degree program in liberal studies, the only degree of its kind in the state school system; he remained the program’s director until his death.

Hayes was extraordinarily generous as a colleague and as a mentor to his many graduate students; his boundless energy, kindness, and humor will be greatly missed. In addition to his scholarship, Hayes was a strong political activist as well as an avid tennis player, fisherman, and swimmer.

Jeffrey Hayes is survived by his wife, Leslie; his three children, Eli, Zachary, and Ursula; and by his grandchildren.

Read another obituary on Hayes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Filed under: Obituaries