“Living in New York, I think everyone has had the dream of finding another room in your apartment. It’s a total fantasy,” observes fashion illustrator Richard Haines on the occasion of his first New York solo exhibition, “Richard Haines: A Room of One’s Own,” now on view at Daniel Cooney Fine Art through October 24, 2015.
Reflecting on the title, Haines reveals, “It’s about secrets, hidden rooms, and beauty.” It is this layering of public and private that makes Haines work so exquisite. With an eye for style and a hand that just won’t quit, Haines has amassed an archive of lyrical and intimate illustrations of New York life that are sensitively rendered and exquisitely felt. His ability to evoke the ethereal that is hidden deep within the flesh makes Haines one of the most compelling fashion illustrators working today.
His ability to reach deep beyond the surface and grasp the substance of things began a long time ago, when Haines was a young boy and his father had been hospitalized for several months. He recalls, “I started drawing then, creating my own world as a way of dealing with what was going on. Ever since then, I drew and drew and drew. When I moved to New York, illustration wasn’t in demand. The New York Times used to have advertisements from department stores using beautiful illustrations—then suddenly it went to photography. I thought I was going to be an illustrator; I switched to design. I had a really good job until 2008 when the economy tanked.”
Haines made moves, going from Fifth Avenue to Bushwick in 2009 and finding himself anew. He returned to his first love, illustration, and began the blog, “What I Saw Today,” documenting the styles of the city’s most glamorous. With his move, things turned around. “I started all over in Bushwick. I had never been on a subway that ran above ground. A week after I moved, there was a concert two blocks away with a million kids. I never would have seen this in Manhattan. I ran back and got my sketchbook and was in heaven.”
“I’ve been in New York for 40 years and I still get off on the energy and vitality of the streets. I want to capture that. There’s so much beauty in the gestures of people, the way they stand and sit. It’s so poetic.”
The hand of the poet writes not only with words but with line, gesture, color, and form. Haines’ intuitive ability to feel the spirit that lies within echoes his own sense of rebirth and return. “Living in Bushwick has been amazing,” says Haines. “It’s informed my work a lot and influenced it. I’m excited to be in New York again. I look back and it is kind of remarkable.”
Coming full circle with a return to his first love, to a way of life that allows him to combine his love of fashion, illustration, and lifestyle once more, “A Room of One’s Own” offers a new way of looking at how we live today, for it reminds us that New York is more than mere industry. It is home to millions of people who have unusually intimate proximity with countless strangers and by virtue of this, we can venture into countless worlds by allowing ourselves to look for the pleasure it brings. We are reminded of these simple pleasures and endless possibilities by Mr. Haines’s illustrations.
All artworks are 14x 11 1/2″ each, watercolor and pencil on paper. © Richard Haines. Courtesy Daniel Cooney Fine Art, New York.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.