His studio practice began with fantastical watercolors derived from theatre sets he created in his backyard. These brightly colored dreamscapes are inhabited by schools of paper airplanes or tropical fish swimming through fabricated towns and mysterious woods. Shay’s sculptural practice evolved from his elaborate studio set-ups that often include boats, lattices, fish, and twig armatures.
Ascending toward the sky atop a crudely fashioned structure, Acadian Gyro stems from the artist’s personal experience. The title recalls the artist’s Acadian heritage—descendant from French settlers—and a gyroscope—a navigational device providing direction and stability. The sculpture’s form evokes the skeleton of a ship melding with the natural landscape and the body of a fish. Its fins look like both leaves and oars as the sculpture hovers amidst the trees and above the distant water. Perhaps referencing the Great Expulsion of Acadians from the present day maritime regions of Canada, Acadian Gyro appears caught in the middle of a monumental and transformative voyage.
Shay earned his MFA in Painting and Printmaking in 1971 from the University of Illinois and his BFA in 1969 from Murray State University in Kentucky. His work is part of the permanent collections of museums, corporations, and universities across the United States, including the Minnesota Museum of Art, Phillip Morris Corporation in New York City, and the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco. He has had solo exhibitions at the LoHo Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky and the Roy Boyd Gallery in Chicago. From 1986-2007, he served as a Professor of Art at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and continues to teach there as Visiting Professor.
Image Courtesy of Julia Featheringill.