Nathan Hayden has less installed an art exhibition in SBCC’s Atkinson Gallery than transformed it into an intricate miniature landscape, one that’s equal parts organic, technical, and crafty. Imagine a wireframe world out of the early days of computer graphics-something on a spaceship’s navigational screen in a low-budget, 20-year-old science fiction movie-rendered in yarn, rope, and various synthetics, then wildly, bulbously deformed. The result is unlike any surrealistic vision displayed in recent memory, and it’s certainly the only one viewers can hope to actually navigate themselves.
Born in West Virginia and currently an MFA candidate at UCSB, Hayden has thus far spread his artistic efforts across disparate domains: printmaking, bookmaking, wool-spinning, knot-tying, and drawing. The artist’s feel for natural materials and sense of line he has developed through those pursuits are on display in some are sweet and some are nasty, and that knot-tying skill clearly got a workout, too. Countless threads of varying texture, thickness, and color sprout from the ceiling, some connecting point to point like jungle vines, some simply hanging straight down nearly to the floor, and some growing into large, globular shapes like the fruits and vegetables of an alien planet. Meticulously constructed out of hundreds of individual filaments tied together, these bizarre, it’s these bulging objects that draw the most prolonged stares. Some are spindly and fragile; others are solid, heavy with what, from a distance, looks like mutant moss.
Any installation created specifically for the Atkinson Gallery would be remiss in neglecting the space’s outdoor half, and Hayden’s rises to the challenge. The very same yellow, black, red, and pink fibers used to convert the indoor half into a nightmarish cavern emanate as multicolored rays from the building’s exterior corners, dramatically altering a normally pristine view of the blue sky. The total effect is reminiscent of watching those nature documentaries on the diligent, hardworking spider, but this time the web has overtaken an entire gallery, and, rather than the mark of arachnid efficiency, Atkinson bears the mysterious aesthetic of madness.