Hayden With “Pride” (2021): A recliner, an office chair, and a baby seat, each covered in zebra hide. Photo: Jeremy Liebman
I had outgrown my previous studio in the Bronx,” Hugh Hayden says, sitting beside an aluminum and wood zebra skeleton sprouting massive branches from its bones. He needed more space to make large pieces for a show at ICA Miami in 2021 and had looked at plenty of listings through the website LoopNet, which focuses on commercial real estate. Prices were too steep for what he needed, until he happened upon a former fruit distributor’s warehouse.
“I actually didn’t like it,” he says of his first visit to the fluorescent-lit, cinderblock-walled structure, “but it ended up being a good deal.”
The two-level space totals about 5,500 square feet with 18-foot ceilings and a garage door on the ground floor, where Hayden has his wood shop and sculpting studio. On the lower-ceilinged second floor, there is a kitchen, an office, and a hangout room, where he and his staff gather for lunch.
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Hayden knew what he wanted to do with it. “I had this vision that putting Sheetrock on the walls, as well as painting the walls, floor, and ceiling, would completely transform this space.”
It’s now his design laboratory, where his fantastical anthropomorphic sculptures are created to address a constant theme. “There’s still this overarching fascination and exploration,” Hayden says, “of trying to inhabit the American Dream — more specifically, this metaphor of camouflage and this idea of blending into a natural landscape is sort of, for me, represented by blending into a social landscape, so that was my fascination with vegetation and the landscape and the environment.”