Artist based in New York, New York

Innovate Grant Winner Oji Haynes
Oji Haynes, Portrait of the Artist

Tell us about yourself, what's your background?

I was always an artist I just didn't know it until I graduated high school & started to think for myself.

Innovate Grant Winner Oji Haynes
Happy Family, 2022

"The more I work on myself and understand what it is I'm doing not only as an artist but as a man in the world, the better the work will become."

Innovate Grant Winner Oji Haynes
Love Forever Stands, 2023
Archival Inkjet mounted on Wood panel
Overall: 45 x 73 inches

What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?

Consistency. Consistency of healthy practices and energy for myself and others. The more I work on myself and understand what it is I'm doing not only as an artist but as a man in the world, the better the work will become.

Listen to What God Has to Say, 2024 String lights, cement, inkjet photo, diamond dust, mixed media on fabric couch 21 x 24 x 74 inches

Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in a creative practice. What do you do for inspiration?

I exist in and of the world around me. Walking, having conversations with fellow artist and peers, laughing, listening to music all free my mind to allow me to create with a full creative voice.

Garage Sale (2022)
Innovate Grant Winner Oji Haynes
U n Eye, 2023
Archival Inkjet mounted on Wood panel
Overall: 45 x 57 inches

Where do ideas start for you? In the studio or being in the world?

Combination of both but my studio is everywhere. What I've come to realize about my practice is a studio is just a home for ideas, the work is actually made outside of that place. My thinking doesn't stop. The ideas are constantly coming to me no matter where I am. I think that's the easy part. The hard part is finding which ones to experiment on, in the physical studio.

Dollar & a Dream Catcher, 2023

How do you make your work, does it start with a sketch? 

I've been recently working with found objects from the street. Couches, doors, wood panels, window panes, mainly things related to or in of domestic spaces. There usually is a bit of planning and sketching in terms of what I want the object to do or function as but once I'm in the studio, I try to have as much fun and free thought as possible. When working with photography, there are weeks to months of planning, sketching and gathering before the actual making of the photograph. The post production work of testing and printing is where the experimentation lies.

(Left) Research/Reference/Detail (Right) Studio view
Innovate Grant Winner Oji Haynes
Installation View: Something 2 Die 4, Houston Center for Photography, Houston Texas. -- André Ramos-Woodard

Many artists live by their routines, do you have your own studio or work ritual? What does that look like for you?

I immediately walk in put my stuff from the day down, lite palo santo, and blast whatever song I am feeling in that moment on my speakers. This is literally how I activate the space and wake everything up. I am completely free once I enter the studio. Free of constraint, fear, doubt. It's my playhouse, I can do whatever want.

Innovate Grant Winner Oji Haynes
Have Mercy on Me, 2023
Archival Inkjet Print mounted on steel panel
Overall: 40 x 120 inches
Individual: 40 x 40 inches

Who are your biggest influences?

As of recently I've been studying the work of Robert Rauschenberg, Akeem Smith, Miles Davis, David Hammons, Noah Davis, Jeff Wall, Mark Rothko, Noah Purifoy, Nari Ward & Mohamed Bourouissa. I also constantly study the legacy and impact of Tupac Shakur.

Sunflowa, 2023 Rubber tire, enamel paint, dollar bills, mirror, inkjet print, dye, steel sheet 51 x 18 x 51 inches

Are there books or films that are an important source of inspiration?

I really love The Creative Act by Rick Rubin. I read it pretty often. His philosophies and thoughts on how artist should think and move within themselves pushes me to work mindfully of what it is I am actually doing with my work.

Innovate Grant Winner Oji Haynes
African American, Black Bearded Man #∞, 2022 CVS Inkjet Print mounted on wood panel Overall: 40 x 70 inches Individual: 8 x 12 inches

How will Innovate Grant contribute to your practice?

To be able to offload some of my bills and priority expenses to free up a larger budget for materials would allow me to complete ideas more efficiently.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The focus of an artist shouldn't be the accolades, solo exhibitions, or publications. Those things only help progress the work to larger audiences. The focus should be how we can become better humans and people of the world to make better work. The betterment of yourself & the work is the focus.

Innovate Grant Winner Oji Haynes
Installation view

What is the best advice you would give to other artists?

Do whatever you want and makes you happy. Stop taking things so serious and just have fun.

There’s a process to get to brilliancy: you do all the corny things, constantly empty the brain of the ignorant and the dumb and the silly things and there’s nothing left but the brilliant ideas. - David Hammons (ART PAPERS July/August 1988)

Oji Haynes, Portrait

Stay up to date with Oji Haynes
Instagram @ojihaynes