Hayden Dunham brings a background in environmental studies and a lifelong interest in our geological surroundings to her sculpture practice that investigates the relationship between the architecture of the human body and the chemical matter with which it interacts. It is an intellectual pursuit to which Dunham thinks a studio practice is most aligned. “I became interested in object making the moment I realized that art had the ability to change how people feel about a subject,” says Dunham. Indeed, environmental and ecological conversations can be quite polarizing. And so, for her part, Dunham, who splits her time between Brooklyn and Los Angeles, tends to take on multi-year projects that slowly confront this moment of collision between a material and a body and the succeeding consequences of those interactions.
Through her sculpture, Dunham grapples with the notion that the body will remain a constant site of augmentation based on the ever-evolving chemical composition of our world. Silica fluoride, and even volcanic ash are substances that have surfaced for Dunham and still, the larger question—how do external systems inform and influence our internal infrastructure—is one that the artist is hoping to explore in ways that do not end with the biological. “Corporations, for example, are now making decisions about our interior infrastructure, non-consensually and consensually. Think about DuPont circulating C8 into Ohio waterways. That moment of information exchange within our bodies is fascinating to me. It moves beyond a mere conceptual framework,” explains Dunham. To be sure, the stakes are high for Dunham as entire ecosystems are reconfigured due to (harmful) human manipulation and political and economic concerns continue to embed themselves within our discourse about ecology and wellness. But the artist remains optimistic. “I am thinking about how to turn a system inside out. What is the way to infiltrate? My material explorations embody and encourage these questions.”