Confused: how Haylee Ryan felt when PurePoint, a new digital bank, asked her to create murals about money.
“Typically, if I’d heard I was going to do a mural for a financial company, I would have said no," she says. "Because that doesn’t sound interesting. I love nostalgia, and I love people and nature."
We’re sitting at a café table at Klyde Warren Park a few feet from a freestanding red door that says “UNLOCK YOUR FUTURE!” It’s locked, but someone from the PR firm lets us look anyway. Grace Kelly is sunbathing beneath an umbrella on a beach in Monaco. The word “ANYWHERE” dances Hollywood sign-style across a steep hill in the background.
“Talking about money, to me? I don’t want to do that. I want to crawl in a ball and go far away from talking about money,” Ryan, 30, says. “I like painting everyday moments and everyday people. I don’t like posed things."
But the bank people told her they had seen one of her murals in Deep Ellum. It was based on an old-school vintage black-and-white photo. They liked its nostalgia and human touch, they told her. It could humanize an otherwise feelingless subject. She said yes.
The three murals were unveiled to the public yesterday. In addition to the one we saw at Klyde Warren, two more are on display through June 3 at the Galleria. The series is a manifestation of Ryan’s dreams: the dream vacation, dream job and dream home. Keeping true to her personal style, she homed in on her proclivity toward the nostalgic.
Aware that not all Dallasites share her affinity for “old things,” Ryan peppered in some modern elements. For the dream car mural, she researched the most famous car scene in cinematic history, a chase scene from the 1968 Steve McQueen film Bullitt. She painted a drive-in movie scene populated with present-day people sitting in their present-day cars watching 1968 Steve McQueen in his vintage Mustang.
The window of time in which she had to complete the three murals was narrow.
“I started on a Monday and finished on Saturday," she says. "It was pretty intense. I was a tired human.”
In addition to painting, Ryan is an art teacher at Hogg Elementary School in Oak Cliff, which is one block from where she lives. Her students trick or treat at her house.
The Dallas native studied art at the University of Dallas under professor Kim Owens — “Which is crazy because I ended up in the same artist community as her-ish,” she says.
Seven years ago, Ryan was living in Bend, Ore., apprenticing for artist Glenn Ness and working at a nonprofit her friends had started to help with the city’s homelessness problem. She says the 2008 financial crisis hit Oregon worse than any other state.
“There were tent cities everywhere, but it was full of people like us," she says. "Like middle-class, whatever people.”
One day, she got a call from someone who worked at the high school she'd attended. The caller said there was an opening for an art teacher and offered her the job, which she accepted, and she moved back to Dallas. The job fell through, but it led her down the path of teaching, which she says she never would have considered otherwise.
Ryan and her best friend, Amanda Page, (“I have the best friend in the whole world,” she says) are in a blues rock band called Sister. When Ryan talks about her music, her eyes light up with palpable excitement.
“We just recorded our first album and it’s about to drop!” she gushes, breaking from her soft-spoken baseline.
For her, nostalgia is a force that’s as binding as it is universal.
“We all have memories, we all saw the same stuff growing up," she says. "It all pulls on our heartstrings the same.”
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.