Hadley received an MFA in 2019 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the current Artist in Residence with the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency, Vicksburg, MI. Her work has been exhibited with organizations such as Roman Susan Art Foundation, Sullivan Galleries, and Dfrbl8r in Chicago, the CICA Museum in Gimpo-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, and in her hometown of Washington, DC with Civilian Art Projects, Transformer, Dupont Underground, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Hadley is a soon-to-be proud resident of Portland, OR.

Listen to Hadley discuss her work in an interview with Zinta Aistars, Art Beat: Art in Light,” WMUK Radio, Kalamazoo, MI.


I think a lot about our present situation. How can basic human and ecological needs be met within a culture that strategically, systemically denies their existence? Neoliberalism is our current system of economics and governance. It’s more, though. It’s an ideology. Many of us don’t even know its name let alone comprehend the unseen ways in which it colors our understanding of the world and ourselves. I am not an economist. I have no solutions. Rather, I present chances to re-evaluate what we think we know, how we define reality.

I make and offer new situations. My works are immersive, durational, site-conditioned environments. I select or make objects with highly specific material properties - usually wood or fabric - and place them within environments as empty of light as possible. Using motions graphics animation software, digital projectors, and projection-mapping, I investigate how perception of material properties can change and expand through light, color, and time. As light shifts, our embodied relationships with objects in space evolve. Something as mundane as wood or fabric can present itself in an altogether unfamiliar reality. The tangible is revealed by the ephemeral and we gain new understanding. My work presents chances to re-evaluate what we think we know: how we see and what assumptions we make.

Through my studio and research practices, I found Perception Theory. Maruice Merleau-Ponty was an important influence on many minimalist artists in the 1960’s - 1970’s. In particular, the work of artists Robert Irwin and Donald Judd’s were impacted. Merleau-Ponty described vision as a product of the eye and mind working together. The eye perceives everything it encounters. However, for efficiency, the mind filters this information. Unimportant information, though perceived, does not register in our vision. We literally don’t see it. Culturally agreed upon values such as wealth and attractiveness impact vision. In a single situation, one person can be invisible while another cannot possibly pass unnoticed. When cultural values determine what we even see, what is real, how can we begin to conceive of potentialities outside of that which already exists? 

Above all, my practice is a manner of looking. Using time- and light-based media to investigate and reveal detailed  material specificity of objects in space/place. The displacement of specific objects creates discrepancy between object and place, revealing latent purpose in both. This discrepancy is amplified the more closely material specificity is investigated. Thus, the more closely we look, the more latent purpose can be observed (It is worth noting that involving metaphor in these situations disrupts the process of investigation and discovery).

Through empirical discovery within extended perceptual experiences, I seek to gain new knowledge. 
My questions are:

1.    How does assumed knowledge prevent real knowledge, or, even simple awareness?

2.    Where is our appreciation for the essentiality and practicality of empirical learning?

3.    How does engaging with an ideologically constructed reality impede, or, even, prevent engaging with true reality (i.e.: corporations have more rights than people, environmental consciousness is an inconvenience)?

4.    Can training the brain to register more information collected through perception (primarily vision, in my research) increase the public’s ability to distinguish between reality and ideology?

My works are spaces with room enough for my whole self. The making of them is a practice of actively attending to the present, to my physical moment and place -- to my situation and my humanity. It’s a process of engaging fully with both external and internal reality. Hiding from reality sometimes feels like the only way to emote fully. Or else, I have to tamp down emotion in favor of performance. In the studio, it’s the opposite. Mobilizing inner child psychology, I ask myself with what I want to play. Play connects emotion with situation and starts to dissolve linear time. Being engaged at once with the world in front of me and my humanity recalibrates my entire outlook on both. I feel confidence, optimism, and a rightness with who and where I am. I don’t know that others have entirely this same experience with my work, but, many have told me they indeed feel it opens a unique space of emotional presence. This comes after spending sufficient time with the work for empirical experience with the shifting perceptual stimuli to take place. Looking to see what I’m not seeing makes room to be.  

In order to imagine potentialities for other realities, it is necessary to create situations that operate outside of Neoliberalist logic. Extended empirical experiences with perceptual stimuli for which a singular reading of physical materials in four dimensions is not possible are exactly that kind these situations. The work I offer, then, is a strategy: one possible way to pierce the veil. It seeks to engage reality and to help keep the universe emergent.


Western thought has maintained, since the Renaissance, a vantage point separate from the world. We are not part of the world. We look out upon it. This is a lie. In art, one point perspective epitomizes this fallacy. We call this lie Realism. One point perspective does not exist. We are within and of the world. We see many things at once. In order to bring our cultural vision closer to reality, we must abandon this idea of a fixed, exterior looking-on in favor of a vision that requires multiple perspectives to form a complete picture. Art is the most logical and effective place to initiate this cultural change.



Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, by
Lawrence Weschler

“Is the moment of perception — that first moment, before all the abstracting, conceptualizing processes that follow — is that moment closest or furthest from the real? Everything depends on your answer to that question.”

“We’re talking about a mental construct to which the whole civilization has deeply committed itself. And what it says, simply, is that as I walk through the world, I bring into focus certain things which are meaningful, and others are by degrees less in focus, dependent upon their meaningfulness in terms of what I’m doing, to the point where there are certain things that are totally out of focus and invisible. We organize our minds in terms of this hierarchical value structure, based on certain ideas about meaning and purpose and function. And perhaps more than anything else, modernist art as a movement has arisen as a critique of that hierarchical structure. When art begins the process of taking all the pictorial out of the pictorial, taking all the symbolic meaning out of the mark and the line, what it’s really doing, essentially, is flattening that value structure.”

“[Modernism has] been a long, arcing dissent from the dominant abstract systematization, the technological qualification that has so characterized the rest of human experience during the past two centuries. Technology is wonderful, the improvements it has brought are fantastic. But the modernist trajectory over the past two hundred years has been about everything that progress has been leaving out. Quality as opposed to quantity. Quality, which can only be experienced by each unique individual, phenomenologically, across the passage of lived time.”

Notes Toward a Conditional Art,“The Art of Pure Inquiry”  
“As artists, the one true inquiry of art as a pure object is an inquiry of our potential to know the world around us and our actively being in it, with a particular emphasis on the aesthetic. This world is not just somehow given to us whole. We perceive, we shape the world, and as artists, we discover and give value to our human potential to “see” the infinite richness (beauty?) in everything, creating an extended aesthetic reality.” 


Donald Judd
“Rather than showing us what the world is like, credible art complicates the present.”


Heightened Perception:
Donald Judd, John
Chamberlain, Robert
Irwin, and Larry Bell,
“A prominent similarity becomes clear amid the perceptual experiments of Donald Judd, John Chamberlain, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and several other artists in the 1960s and 1970s. These painters and sculptors made works that bring about new visual phenomena and that demand a specialized mode of vision, a way of seeing that trades the utility and efficiency of everyday sight for a hypersensitive focus upon what is unusual and barely discernible. The payoff for the extreme amounts of time and effort required to observe artworks in this manner constitutes common ground as well. By engaging their paintings, objects, and spaces, one can gather new knowledge.”

“Most works are best understood visually and not verbally, of course, and the translation into language of thoughts inextricably tied to material, space, and phenomena presents additional difficulties.”

“The failure of language seems to coincide with the discovery of unprecedented phenomena and of the impending limits to one’s present perceptual capacity. Probing this threshold remains a promising way both to encounter fresh sensations and to continue heightening one’s sensitivity to even subtler phenomena.”

“Sensations for which we have no good name begin to register when one takes a little time to look more closely than usual.”

“Often, with [Irwin’s] art, the phenomena one perceives ultimately defy direct description.”

“The dot and disc paintings refine acuity across the board, eliciting unaccustomed examination of sights thought already familiar, first glimpses of phenomena heretofore subliminal, and newfound sensitivity—albeit unconscious—to stimuli altogether imperceptible before.”

“Experiencing these sensations, and relearning how things look and how they are, amounts to new knowledge about a world that can sometimes seem exceedingly familiar when we cannot take the time to scrutinize it.”

“By perceiving phenomena so unlike what we normally apprehend, we learn about the novel sensations themselves but also discover the existence of vast amounts of sensory data that go unremarked in art objects and in the world at large.”

© 2020 Pamela Hadley