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Hayley Blomquist: Ambassador of Art

Fine arts major Hayley Blomquist ‘18 can’t be contained – and neither can her work.

From an unusual sculptural creation that took over an entire room to a public mural in a biology department stairwell depicting scientific organisms, Hayley embraces the concept of ‘social practice’ – making art an event that encourages the public to interact with her work – to touch it, hold it, even sit on it.

Hayley Painting

“It’s similar to performance art but it incorporates the public and brings people together,” she said. “Rather than the artist performing for the public, it invites people to get involved. I really like bringing people together. “I love teaching. I feel like there is a divide in the art world. You’re not allowed to touch the art; you’re not allowed to get too close; the works are too precious.”

Hayley came to Hofstra University by way of Colorado, where she found inspiration in the sweeping vistas.

“I grew up in the mountains and around nature,” she said. “I’ve always loved making things, making clothes, and making artwork.” Hayley continued to nurture her interests in texture, textiles and fashion throughout her teens, choosing Hofstra because of its proximity to New York City.

“That’s the place for art,” she said, “I knew I needed to be here.”

Her artistic journey at Hofstra has been eclectic and interdisciplinary


“What I like about Hofstra is that you have to take all different types of art classes. If you are a painting major you still have to take sculpture, ceramics and metals classes,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed working in all different types of media. But I really do love drawing and painting and incorporating that into the textile artwork and the mishing and mashing of 2D and 3D.”

Her tour de force is a sculpture she calls Joy.

“It started as a drawing assignment in Professor [Jim] Lee’s class.” Hayley recalls. “The assignment was to create a newspaper, and I decided to make it look like it had been knitted. His critique was, ‘so why didn’t you just knit this?’ I started thinking about knitting and weaving.”

“I started thinking about the definition of the word joy – for me it’s about finding the happiness in the moment and looking toward the greater goal.”

Hayley began knitting Joy using paper towels, the project embodying the expansive, effervescent nature of its creator.

Exhibit Opening

As Joy developed, Hayley had to keep adapting how she was working – at one time she was using broomsticks for needles. All the while, she was focused on how much she was enjoying the work.  “I started thinking about the definition of the word joy – for me it’s about finding the happiness in the moment and looking toward the greater goal. It all came together because my grandma taught me how to knit and her name was Joy. It felt perfect to give it that name.”

Joy soon outgrew its studio space. “I only stopped knitting because I ran out of time and room.”

At 20-feet long Joy still had more joy to give.

“During my exhibition for Joy I invited people to learn how to knit – I had a bunch of knitting needles and yarn, and I let them sit on the sculpture and we all knit together,” she said.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Hayley’s talent would eventually find a venue outside the Fine Arts Department.

Joy soon outgrew its studio space. “I only stopped knitting because I ran out of time and room.”

Carol St. Angelo, director of laboratories for the Department of Biology, invited the Fine Arts Department to recommend students to paint murals in the stairwells of Gittleson Hall.

Hayley first helped a classmate work on a series of portraits of famous biologists and geologists in the west stairwell of Gittleson.  Then, Dr. St. Angelo asked her to work on a mural of organisms for the east stairwell.

“Carol gave me a list of all the organisms they wanted me to paint. I thought it was interesting to approach them from an artistic point of view,” she said. “As I was working in the stairwell, professors would come up to me and point out which organism was their area of specialty. Within my own art, I can take more creative license, but here each work had to be very precise.”

Asked what she gained from the experience of painting the mural, Hayley said, “I think it’s important to absorb all different types of information. I took a geology class last year, and I started incorporating the designs from all the gorgeous geodes and rocks into my artwork. I find that I get inspiration from all different types of areas, not just right brain but left brain things as well.”

Hayley is looking forward to a career in art and perhaps in teaching as well. She says she has a passion for helping people learn a new skill. December 2016-February 2017 the historic Bryant Library in Roslyn, NY, showed a selection of her paintings. “I would say with Hayley she could be an artist living and working in New York City or showing abroad,” said her professor and mentor Jim Lee. “I could see her working in a biology department. She could be running any multitude of things. In a lot of ways when you run into students like this it’s almost best just to stay out of their way.”