“I want you to want to touch my work,” ceramic artist Donté Hayes tells me, smiling. “We’re always told not to touch art, but I want my work to be so welcoming and the textures to be so inviting that people feel they have to touch it—even if they’re looking at it through a screen.”
The rising star, Atlanta native is certainly succeeding on that front. Since 2018, Hayes has been creating a series of evocative, got-to-be-touched black stoneware vessels that feel at once of this earth and beyond it—thanks to dramatic, organic forms and intricate, textile-like surfaces that call to mind raffia, grass, or human hair.
Hayes describes his process as both highly personal and research driven, pointing to inspirational sources as rich and varied as science fiction, hip hop, his African heritage, colonial era symbolism, socio-political systems, pop culture, his immediate family, his own personal history, and beyond. “I take all these things in, and they become a part of me,” he says. These layered references, alongside the striking, curious forms and incredible textures, are perhaps what make the work so accessible and evocative. “I see my work as an initiation,” Hayes says. “It takes you from wherever you are to another place, a place you need to be in that moment.”