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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: May 21, 2018

Backyard chickens are the subject of a photographer’s portrait series

Written by: Bob Keyes

Larry Hayden changed his mind about the chickens as soon as they arrived.

“It was my wife’s idea,” he said. “I thought they would be a lot of work, but I kind of fell for them.”

Fell for them he did. An artist who works in multiple disciplines, Hayden began hanging out with his laying hens soon after they arrived in 2014, sitting with them in their coop in the early morning light and following them around the yard on the outskirts of Portland. As he began to understand them, they began to accept him. Soon, Hayden was making their portraits with his camera.

Beginning Saturday at George Marshall Store Gallery in York, Hayden will show a collection of photographs of his chickens that he has taken over the years. The exhibition, “Backyard Chickens,” is part of an array of season-opening exhibitions at the gallery and is on view through July 8.

The series is evolving, as Hayden adds to it regularly. He posts his photos on Facebook, and the encouragement he receives from his social media community propels him to keep at it. He’s shown photos from the series over the years, and the exhibition at George Marshall Store Gallery will include new photos as well as those he has shown before.

Ruth Greene-McNally, an associate curator at the Ogunquit Musuem of American Art, where Hayden works as a preparator, is curating the exhibition.

Hayden was first attracted to the idea of photographing the chickens by the “sensational” nature of the light streaming into the chicken coop. The light enters the coop from the south and from the east, filling it with a photographer’s dream.

“They became used to me being around, and I got to be up close as they developed,” he said. “Gradually, it seemed that all I was taking pictures of were the chickens.”

Rich in color and dense with information, the photographs look like Old Master paintings. The viewer can sense the personalities of the poultry. We see their adventurousness, their mischievous nature and perhaps even their humor.

Hayden’s affection for the chicks was sealed the day he watched two of them find their wings for the first time. He witnessed as they spread their wings and jumped in the air. “These are like little miracles,” he said to himself.

He developed great respect and admiration for the mother hen Blondie, who sat on two eggs for 21 days and was skin and bones by the time the chicks hatched. “She stepped right up to the job of being a strong and protective mother,” he said. “I was so impressed.”

He hopes his series leads people to appreciate the complexity and consciousness of backyard chickens everywhere.

“Backyard Chickens” by Larry Hayden

WHERE: George Marshall Store Gallery, 140 Lindsay Road, York
WHEN: Opens Saturday with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m., on view through July 8; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday
ALSO ON VIEW: Sarah Haskell, Lynn Duryea, Catherine Kernan and Bill Cass
INFO: 351-1083,

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