As an artist, Max Hayslette’s move from one style to another — abstract to impressionist to postimpressionist — is as smooth as his look: black blazer, dark-rimmed circular glasses, and Bombay Sapphire martini (with a twist, a la Ian Fleming).
He’s internationally known for his mesmerizing landscapes of Tuscany, the French countryside, the Chateaux region, rivieras, and Rural America. His work is represented in more than 350 private, corporate and public collections. His paintings have been available as custom art through Ethan Allen Interiors, and his dreamy landscapes are widely available as posters. West Virginia University, in his native state, houses the Max Hayslette Archives Collection at its Morgantown campus.
And still, approaching 85 years of age, the Kingston artist continues to explore and innovate. On May 3, an exhibit of a new series of Northwest scenes by Hayslette will be unveiled at Almost Candid Frame & Fine Arts, 10978 Highway 104, Suite 109, Kingston. The photo studio, frame shop and fine arts gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 360-297-1347.
“He’s best known for his scenics, his landscapes, his technical abstracts,” Almost Candid owner Johnny Walker said. “This is his first endeavor on Pacific Northwest landscapes. This is new for us and, quite frankly, for the Pacific Northwest.
“He’s done a lot of world travel, studying and painting and getting inspiration for the works he’s most known for … He’s lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1962. This is a great time for him to [artistically] visit his community.”
The exhibit is called “The Rugged Coast” and features more than 30 recent works. Viewers will see Hayslette’s take — he calls each painting “an assemblage of parts and forms, light and shadow”— on some familiar sites, among them Point No Point lighthouse, Kingston’s Appletree Cove, Mount Rainier, The Brothers, Rialto Beach, Shi Shi Beach.
With each piece he paints, Hayslette starts by setting the scene, modifying and adding or deleting elements “to improve the story telling,” he once wrote. He then makes an enlarged full-size guide, paints a watercolor study, then does an acrylic underpainting followed by the oil phase.
“As is my practice in all of my paintings, I choose a subject — sometimes more than one — study it or them well, and then mentally disassemble the parts, mixing and reassembling them into a new image with a new spirit, which is my own,” he said in an earlier interview with the North Kitsap Herald.
In an article he authored for the June/July 2003 International Artist magazine, Hayslette wrote that he regards himself as a poet with a paintbox “whose mission is to show people the deeper sensibilities of nature — the things that tend to go unnoticed.”
He wrote, “As an artist whose published works reach a wide audience, I feel it is my duty to ensure that each image conveys sone small message of Earth’s subtleties. It has been my observation that many people go through their lives with only surface awareness of the natural elements around them. I see myself as a connector. My mission when painting is to connect the viewer with the deeper sensibilities of nature, to point out the delicacies that might otherwise go unnoticed.”
Hayslette was born in Rupert, W.Va. He graduated from the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1951, studied briefly with Egon Weiner and Alexander Archipenko at the Art Institute of Chicago, then interned with Olson Designs, which had ties to the Chicago Seven postmodern group of artists and designers.
Hayslette served in administrative roles in the U.S. Army from 1953-55, then rejoined Olson as an exhibit designer. He became a principal in a Seattle design firm in 1962; among his award-winning exhibits was the Alaska Pavilion at the 1962 World’s Fair. In 1973, he founded Olympus Graphics on Bainbridge Island to produce large-scale abstract serigraphs for the design and corporate art market. He later sold the company to devote himself solely to painting — first, abstract expressionism, then Asian-inspired imagery, and then the abstracts and landscapes and scenics for which he’s most famous.
Hayslette works hard. He’s in his studio overlooking Appletree Cove six days a week. This particular morning, he’s been at work at his easel, visited Almost Candid to review progress on the upcoming exhibit, completed a media interview, then suggested it was time for lunch and a martini before checking his watch and finding it was only 10:30 a.m.
Though he’s internationally known, Hayslette said he hasn’t been a part of the local art scene because there hasn’t been a local market for his work. His abstracts can be seen at Roby King Galleries on Bainbridge Island, but his primary galleries are in California and on the East Coast.
Walker hopes “The Rugged Coast” changes that. Of 17 artists represented at Almost Candid, Hayslette is the No. 1 artist and one-third of the gallery is devoted to his work. All gallery space will be devoted to “The Rugged Coast” exhibit.
Walker wants to make Hayslette’s works available as giclees on canvas; as signed and numbered limited-edition high-quality prints; and in portfolios of 10.
Next for the artist: He’s working on rural scenics for an exhibit at the Cooper Gallery, in his native Lewisburg, W.Va., in September. The University of West Virginia will feature a retrospective of his work in 2015.