Hayley Labrum-Morrison is the newest occupant of the Horlock House Art Gallery and History Museum, courtesy of the Navasota Artist in Residence (AIR) program. For six years, the collaborative effort between the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley (ACBV) and the City of Navasota has provided opportunities for artists of all ages to create and sell their work. AIR is funded by hotel/motel occupancy tax.
The Utah native earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Brigham Young University in 2008. She received encouragement from many people in her life but one of her biggest supporters was her grandmother.
Morrison said, “Even at age 90, she drove down to see my final art show, loved everything and ended up buying a bunch of my art. She was always so excited about creativity and really wanted to foster it in me, where my parents were a little more practical. It was nice to have someone who was like ‘go for it and pursue your passion.’’’
According to Morrison, 2008 was not the best time to pursue a career in art or find employment, but the move to Chicago and a job in the Career Services Office at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business presented other possibilities and eventually a recruiting position in Sydney, Australia that tapped into her creative skills with people and marketing.
Morrison said, “I always thought about going back to art, but I feel like it was a really valuable experience to see how the world works, how to be task-oriented and handle deadlines. A lot of those skills I have translated into being a successful artist, too.”
She continued, “A lot of artists have a really hard time struggling with that balance of following what they love but also being able to survive. I’m glad I was able to figure things out as I go, and hopefully, I’ll never look back.”
As for a message in her work, Morrison said, “I have general ideas in concepts that I’m thinking
about. Like for this series, I was going through a lot of change in my life and what I believe in, and I was trying to figure out what was true and what was not true so I started depicting figures of children that were exploring landscapes and discovering things. The shapes that I depict, those black and white and grayscale shapes, often represent symbols of truth. Tropical landscapes are kind of mysterious and things to be explored.”
Morrison loves color, how it taps into the emotions and she hopes it grabs the attention of the viewer by its combinations and juxtaposition.
She has seen regional differences in art like the painters and sculptors of Chicago or the craftsmen of Austin who work with ceramics, fabric and wood, but across-the-board, Morrison says art is “becoming more technologically driven.”
Morrison said, “In Utah there is a big focus on spiritual art. I have some spiritual aspects in my work but it’s not the focus, whereas that was pretty common with my peers growing up in Utah. What I’m doing now is a little more driven by my female ancestry.”
Morrison incorporates representative figures from stories of pioneers and women provided by her mother into her work.
She said, “I want to be more in touch with that and understand how I became a person who grew up in Utah and ended up here, and just
figuring out who I am.”
One benefit of Morrison’s residency is the opportunity to switch mental gears.
She said, “It’s given me the opportunity to explore my work. I have the time, the space. I’m free from distraction.”
Despite experience with phone interviews and presentations, Morrison hasn’t been in front of a camera, given personal interviews or lived with anyone other than her husband in a long time. She also looks forward to the community outreach aspect with upcoming festivals and events.
She said, “Those are going to be new experiences for me. Just being in a small town is very different for me too and I’m really enjoying that. I love the natural landscape around here.”
Morrison has been pleased with the efforts of the ACBV in providing opportunities and she has found Navasota officials welcoming.
She said, “I get the impression they like having the artists in residence and they’re very welcoming to everyone coming through.”
Seize the day!
Whether it’s her corporate background or her tenacious pioneer ancestors, Morrison is goal oriented. Pointing to a goal achieved set for herself a year ago, a residency and her work displayed in a group show, her next short-term goal is a solo show in a gallery.
For the long term, her eyes are on a Master of Fine Arts degree.
She said, “Ultimately, the dream would be to teach art at the college level. I love teaching and I love art and I think students would be at the level where they would take it very seriously. With my background in recruiting, I feel I could help them transition into the art world. I think that would be a good long-term fit for me.”
From her vantage point, Morrison’s advice is appropriate for young artists as well as those who’ve put their passion on the backburner for family or career - remain hopeful and seek opportunities - even if working in a full-time job.
For Morrison, taking advantage of random opportunities netted pulling an all-nighter on a sketch for Extreme Makeover as well as painting windows at the San Diego Comic-Con.
She said, “Take some workshops, classes or keep an eye on open calls and enter your work.”
And then there’s mingling with other artists and attending gallery openings. Morrison even credits Instagram with opening some doors.
But above all, “Maintain that hope until the time you feel it is right for you. When you do feel that, seize the day! Take the opportunity and do it!”
Meet the artist
Hayley Labrum Morrison’s work will be on display at the upcoming Reds, Wheats and Blues, Saturday, Nov. 9, in downtown Navasota as well as at the Navasota is Beautiful book launch, Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Horlock House Art Gallery and History Museum, 1215 E. Washington in Navasota. The gallery is open to the public Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. and admission is free.