By: Sarah Cirelli and Luciana Paz
“Now I just paint vaginas all of the time,” Haley Haren, senior art therapy major said.
Haren’s free-spirited golden curls rest upon her shoulder, encapsulating how big her heart and artistic creativity are. She sits beside her paintings in the art studio and gets lost in the moment while stroking her canvases with a paint brush.
“I use art as a way of coping in my own life. So I make a lot of pieces of art that deal with my emotional issues, celebrations too, not just sad stuff,” Haren said.
She explained she went into art as an outlet for emotional, physical, and spiritual reasons to unload not only her baggage but the baggage of others that began consuming her life.
“I needed to get this baggage out of me in a sustainable way that wasn’t an empty process,” Haren said. “Exercise and even eating food left me feeling gross so I decided to try art and took a class.”
Now, nine pieces of her art are mounted on the walls of the Bailey’s Art Studio until May 4. Each piece encapsulate Haley’s thoughts through abstract art on oil painted canvases or wood and mixed media art.
“I use larger pieces of oil painting to squeeze out what I couldn’t get into words to provide the deeper answers that would make sense for me to share with other people,” Haren said.
Haren considers herself a feminist and how it is incorporated into her art. She talked about how being a woman makes her excited to be a feminist, especially in America in 2018.
“There’s this new age of feminist movement and being excited about our bodies and owning our bodies and our choices emotionally, spiritually, and sexually. I totally think I’m a feminist because these are things I’m practicing with me and women around me.”
The purpose of her artwork is to break stereotypes within society. She wants it to be socially acceptable to talk about women and their bodies…So she paints vaginas.
“I love that she does abstract art as well as statement pieces that may be controversial. She does not let others put her down because she knows her worth,” said Natalia Beristain-Mayol, junior psychology major said. “Feminism is commonly affirmed to be a negative thing but in reality, Haley is standing up for equal rights of the sexes. As a woman, I fully support Haley, she is truly redefining what feminism is, but with her own twist.”
Haren explained that she went to an all-girls school in Chattanooga, Tennessee and how she has always been super-empowered by women since the age of 11 which shaped her into a feminist.
“Haley has excelled in her work and has grown in her exposure to many different events and work through her practicum work with St Joseph’s Hospital and her work with the children in Puerto Rico,” Scarce said, “She is outspoken and very committed to her art and her feminist beliefs…this is refreshing to see this kind of passion in a cause from a student.”
They collaborated with the Puerto Rico Art Therapy Association (PRATA) and volunteered in several shelters throughout the island to provide art therapy group service to those affected by the hurricane Irma and Maria’s destruction in September 2017.
“To me, that was an amazing experience to see art as a healing outlet for people,” Haren said. “My art gallery is a response to trauma and is inspired by my trip to Puerto Rico with feminist undertones.”
Haren explained her art gallery, “Perennial,” as a huge mess of pieces from her studio class. The name Perennial was inspired by her mother who encouraged her at a young age to be an artist. She would encourage Haren to “just make something” and not worry about what it would look like and hang it gallery style in her house.
They would garden together and her mother always planted perennial flowers and every winter they would die, but every spring they would watch them break through the earth and bloom.
“I felt like perennial was a word to describe my journey as a feminist,” Haren said. “A lot of my ideas about being a woman to offer to myself and to others were suppressed and then coming to school with art has allowed me to find my spring and bloom up again.”
Haren’s favorite piece in her art gallery is number five. It’s a pink-flesh-toned piece that is meant to serve as emotional relations between people as friends or relationships.
“I feel like graduating from college and becoming a woman in the workplace is something I’m really excited about, but it’s very intimidating to me,” Haren said. “So I just had to squeeze out these colors and I chose a lot of soft pinks because they are colors that are traditionally related to feminism and just feminist kind of nature — soft, pink, and delicate. But I applied the paint in a more aggressive way so it juxtaposes the soft pink with intense action painting. So the brush strokes that are applied physically and attempted with depth are what make it feminist.”
Haren hopes people that look at her art take a break and look at it and feel it, breath, and release for a second. She explains how she doesn’t throw a meaning into her work because she wants the viewer to be able to relate and connect in a way that makes sense for them.
“Her work expresses who she is as an artist and the use of art as therapy and art’s therapeutic value,” Sierra Kroeter, senior painting and art therapy major said.
Haren is not only an artist but a certified yoga instructor that teaches classes at the UT gym.
“‘I’ve always struggled with my body image, and I think that’s something I will always struggle with,” Haren said. “I know a lot of women struggle with it and I want my classes to be a safe place and where you can use your body as a tool for relief and a tool to release and not worry about if I’m breathing too much, or do I have a roll on my tummy in this pose? I want to create a space where they can just be women and just be present with their breath.”
Haren said she started yoga and art around the same time in her life getting into college. She used yoga as an outlet and after her first class at UT, she cried. She enjoys having something where she can control her body movement and breath to better herself. Now Haren is a certified yoga instructor.
“I can see that she values me as much as I value her,” Olivia Reeb, senior science education major said. “Haley inspires me to be myself. I have never met anyone as true to themselves as Haley and the way she loves herself makes me love myself.”
She said that her classes are meant to encourage body positivity for women and try to incorporate working out the mind, body, and soul with an undertone of feminism encouragement.
“Her delicate and soft voice carries the rooms aurora with self-love. She lets you know that ‘you are enough’ and ‘Right here, right now, you are loved,’” Beristain-Mayol said. “ As an individual that struggles with self-love, she never fails to lift my spirits.”
Haren said her biggest inspiration in art is Tracey Emin because she makes graphic feminist art.
She said Emin uses intense imagery paired to capture the viewer’s senses and emotions with charged pieces of modern feminist art.
Haren will be continuing onto graduate school in the Fall of 2018 in Colorado to pursue her education in Art Therapy. If you’d like to know more about Haren’s artwork check out her website.
Haren looked up from her stitches of vaginas on canvas and said,
“I was thinking of putting a bunch of vaginas on my graduation cap, would that be pretty or would that be vulgar?”