by Leah Draffen
AS THE GRANDSON of a “wacky” engineer, it’s only fitting that artist Josh Hailey’s projects are literally off-the-wall. “I majored in photography and minored in ceramics which shows where my mixed media work comes from,” says Josh. “I can’t make anything completely flat.”
Josh blends his love for photography and art to create mixed media artwork for all. “I try to make a one-of-a-kind piece in everything I do through layering fabric to weaving things to incorporating upcycled items like donated wood, fabric…anything.”
Originally from Jackson, Mississippi, Josh attended Mississippi State University to study architecture, but quickly found himself playing in the basement dark room. Following college in 2005, Josh planned to move to New Orleans, but Hurricane Katrina arrived at the same time. “I reverted and started a gallery in Jackson. That is where I learned a lot. I also traveled profusely.” Like many of Josh’s passions, his traveling became a project that eventually landed him in New Orleans.
“In 2012, I put together Photamerica while spending two years on the road. I self-funded the tour and called it my ‘grad school’ because it combined all of my interests of art, photography and travel. I interviewed three Americans a day, then made photographs, custom artwork and music videos of every state,” Josh explains.
“My sixth state was Louisiana. That’s where I found the Bywater Art Lofts, which is where I live now. And in the 43rd state, New York, I met my wife in a bar. We got accepted into the Lofts and moved down in 2014. New Orleans has been incredible. It really set my artistic brain on fire.”
Josh began selling his Photamerica series at the Frenchman Art Market. He expanded quickly into custom work for hotels, new builds and residential projects. “I like to wear a different hat every day,” laughs Josh. “It keeps things interesting and allows me to do it all.”
Recently, Josh completed an interactive floor mural for JAMNOLA (read more about JAMNOLA) and a 32-foot mural at the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South’s event space. Josh used over 3,000 pieces of fabric in the WBEC mural. The new Bywater Brew Pub on Royal Street features Josh’s work including a painted wall mural and Josh’s New Orleans Maps.
The Maps found at the Brew Pub and on Josh’s website is a favorite project of his. “I love to work with people on custom maps that use a mix of fabric, paint, imagery and gold finishes. I try to make art for anyone and everyone. My whole philosophy is to make artwork that is affordable for all.”
Another favorite is his Modern Past Present series. “I adore doing the Modern Past Present series. You give me 100 or more images of someone in your family and I can make an art piece of them using memorabilia and the photos. It’s a fun, personal and beautiful project.”
While creating art is incredibly exciting for Josh, it’s getting to meet the people who will enjoy it that fills him even more. “I personally like to meet the person that buys my art,” Josh smiles. “I like to install it for free, hang out, sign it for you, drink a beer and have a good time. I think that has so much more intrinsic value than just buying the art without ever meeting.”
Celebrating six years in New Orleans, Josh hopes to continue hanging his mixed media works in the homes and buildings of the city he loves.