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Contemporary painter Cory Hyatt Hines reflects on transforming herself and her art

Contemporary painter Cory Hyatt Hines reflects on transforming herself and her art
January 2021

Find out how she's rediscovering her passion and her goals for 2021

Cory Hyatt Hines in her studio with her Lowountry-inspired abstract landscapes.

Contemporary visual artist Cory Hyatt Hines is looking to 2021 as a year for regaining her balance. “I had it before—but then in 2020, life did a complete 180,” she says. 

Fortunately, Hines, a College of Charleston graduate who earned an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design, has always embraced change. Her work has evolved from her practice of realism while she was in college to launching a career in graphic design, debuting Modern South Studio, and years later, picking up a paint brush again to reinvent herself as an abstract artist, gaining a following for her vibrant, Lowcountry-inspired landscapes. 

But in 2020, life changed again. The gallery that represented her, Trager Contemporary closed its space on King Street. Then COVID hit, and Hines, who also is high school digital art and design teacher, felt the added stresses of virtual teaching and supporting her students. In her personal life, there were also major, though happier, transitions: getting married; creating a blended family with her daughter, her husband, and his five children; and building a house.

She stepped back from her art and shifted her focus to fitness and wellness coaching—she’d been sharing her dramatic fitness journey through social media, and her followers were asking for her help with their own wellness goals. 

Now, at the beginning of a new year, Hines is exploring how her art, which has always been deeply personal, will evolve.

In My Head (acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 36 by 48 inches, 2018)

On shifting focus: After COVID hit, it just wasn’t in me to do large pieces. I was sitting on this large amount of inventory, and I had the time, but the forward momentum was pulled from under me. On my social media, people were still talking about my art, but the conversation had shifted to this dramatic physical transformation I’d undergone—asking how I did it, how they could do it. Coaching became what I needed at the time. 

Getting personal: I found out people like seeing my husband and me together [on Instagram]. It’s interesting, because we were presenting ourselves publicly as an interracial couple right around the time of the [Black Lives Matter] rallies, and all of the discussion in Charleston around race. It opened up this whole new conversation with people. 

Being an artist in the time of COVID: A lot of the way I would stay connected with followers and fans of my art is through events—markets, shows, gallery openings. And, of course, all that was taken away. Rather than reinventing myself as an artist in the COVID world, I pulled back. I spent some time looking at different styles and playing with things that were in my head, but not producing the work. 

On contemporary landscapes: Landscapes are one of the most popular things I do. Finding a way to do them abstractly was a really big breakthrough for me. There are so many landscapes out there—I had to figure out how to do them in a way that was relatable and still reminded people of the ocean and marshes, but also felt modern and contemporary.

Goals for 2021: I’m going to revisit abstract landscapes. I have this series in my head that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I did a small collection of minis, six-by-six canvases, this year, but I haven’t done a large abstract landscape in a long time. I want to figure out how to bring some of the geometric forms I’ve been using in my illustrations back into the abstract landscape—push them to 2.0. 

Finding her voice again: I feel like this year, the pieces are going to fall into place, even while we’re still in a COVID world. My goal is to create and find what my voice looks like in 2021, with all of the changes that have occurred. I’m not afraid. I have no fear that I won’t find it. I just have to do it.