Begun in the mid-1980s, Bill Hayward’s The American Memory Project is an active and still-growing archive of more than five hundred paint and paper Portraits of the Collaborative Self.
These explicitly interactive portraits were made at locations across the county including Independence Hall, PA; Selma, AL; The Little Bighorn Battlefield, Crow Agency, MT; Golden Gate National Park, CA; and the World Trade Center, NY., and serve to at once reveal and reinforce the power of the individual as a historical subject.
The playwright James Lescene, whose portrait appears in Hayward’s book Bad Behavior (Rizzoli, 2000), says of Hayward’s collaborative process: “There’s a kind of sacredness to this whole thing, which I think is really interesting... you create this ritual in which you, Bill, interact with the person who’s creating the art... and it’s your art and their art coming together in some way that’s outside of both of you. It’s not having your picture taken, that’s not what the deal is… You’re outside yourself for a moment and you get to see what you look like, but not just what you look like in a physical way, but what you look like as if you turned yourself inside out... you’ve accomplished that expression of who you are, and that’s really rare.”
Says Hayward: “Given enough paint, paper and permission, there’s no telling where we might end up. Their heart, their art.”
More of Hayward’s work can be seen on Instagram at the_house_of_dragons_nyc and at billhayward.com.