What It Means to Be Human: Haley Morgan’s Handmade Homebody Heart

September 14th, 2011  |  by Published in featured, featured artists  |  1 Comment

If you live in Northampton, the chances that you haven’t already met Haley Morgan or encountered her work are pretty slim.

Here’s a little primer of her various creative talents and community-improvements:  She’s in a band called HOME BODY, with Eric Hnatow — and they’re about to release first EP, Fire Places. (You can even get a sneak-preview of it here).  Haley makes super-cool jewelry & accessories that she sells at Stick & Bricks.  She creates drawings (examples in the top-margin of this site, above), flags, videos, house art shows, AND she produced the high-profile Kirkland Ave Mural Project that explored and transformed a neglected alley in the heart of downtown.

At the compelling core of everything Haley does, is who she IS.  Being personally acquainted with her has been a noteworthy and important experience for me. I’m especially enjoying having an inspiring role model of leadership and artistry who’s at least a decade younger than I, and who lives and works in the city I’m so attached to.  I also feel solidarity with her as another artist who also draws and doodles symbolic people/beings with a lot of SOUL and power.  She’s a force of of warmth, friendliness, color, positive vibes, social skills, and radical commitment to her own HEART and vision — a force that has literally improved the quality of life for plenty of other young and emerging artists in Northampton.

There’s something about her way, her work, and the content of her art that helps transform the stale mythology (that my own Generation X has certainly fed into) of the aloof, dark, inept, disorganized, isolated, sociopathic, unhealthy, cynical, or depressed artist.  I see Haley as part of a larger movement to embody, model, and redefine the role of “art” and “artists” in terms of positive, intentional, and world-improving characteristics.  In closing, I’d like to say that I love that her name starts with an H.  Now please get to know Her Human Handmade Homebody Haley Heart.   ~Dana


What are you trying to communicate or explore in your work?

The connections between our selves and our environments. How do the spaces we inhabit shape our relationships to our selves, each other, and our community? I also like making work that celebrates and explores what it means to be human. How do we use our bodies, our voices, our dress, our hands, and our vocabulary to express our relationships to our worlds? I like creating work that shows how stories are embedded in objects and places and people. I also really like thinking about ancient history and cultures and rituals, and astronomy and archeology, and our present and future place in the context of all of it.


Where were you when you created one of your favorite works?

In the spring of 2009 I collaborated with Kelley Mariani and created a performance piece in Kirkland Ave, the alleyway between Downtown Sounds and La Fiorentina in downtown Northampton. We called the piece The Spaces Between Us And All That We Share. We worked with about a dozen performers to create a loose site-specific score that incorporated improvisational movement, audience interaction, flashlights, hand-held radios, projections of static, a disco ball, and string- many of my favorite objects. It was misting out the night of the performance, and there was a moment where the light rain was catching the projections, and I held a radio in my hand that was emitting static, and I could hear the audiences’ feet shuffling in the alley grit, and in that moment I felt like I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. It was very exciting to me to have such a large group of people show up for an experimental mysterious performance in a dark alley that smelled like piss!

I felt such love and gratitude for the people around me and the space I was working in…but to be real, I also felt more frightened and vulnerable than I ever had before making art. I think it’s because I often focus more on the process of making something than the “finished” product, and in that performance I realized that all the audience experiences is a product. It seemed scary to me that whatever happened then and there was it, was what it was, and there wasn’t going to be any sort of opportunity to try again. That experience also re-energized me to explore the possibilities of performance further, and push that edge I had discovered.


How do you see your art in relation to cultivating community and how does community affect the work you make?

I’m a sucker for having fun and feeling good, and I try to create work that shares those things. And I’m not just an artist who tries to makes things, but I am also an artist who tries to make things happen. Community is very important to me, it’s where I get my strength, inspiration, and support. But I also have strong feelings about what community can be, and what it needs, and what it can look like, so rather than sitting back and criticizing the things that are happening, or getting bored and moving to Brooklyn or San Francisco like everyone else, I’m trying to be active and make what I want to see happen, happen. I love this area and I’m not ready to leave yet.


What is your spirit animal?

An owl. I like their nocturnal nature, and how they can be so swift and quiet and strong. Or a horse (a wild one, of course), able to run fast and freely through meadows, only pausing to munch on clover or roll around in the dust. Or a whale!


What spaces in Northampton are you most curious to see the inside of or to make work in?

The top of the parking garages, the Don Gleason building, the garage next to Pearl Street, The Roundhouse, the overgrown parking lot on King St, the bike bridge spanning the Connecticut River, and all the vacant commercial spaces along King St (to name a few!)


What are some strategies you use to sustain your creative practice while living in Northampton?

Western Massachusetts is full of creative energy, inspiring landscapes and stories, and interesting people and so I don’t find it very challenging to have a fruitful creative practice here. The price of living in Northampton is the tricky part for me, in the face of towering student loans and expensive real estate. But it’s easy to let what you don’t have rule your life, rather than letting what you do have direct it. I have been trying very hard to center my life around my favorite things, rather than the activities I must endure in order to support them.

I’ve also figured out that life is way more fun when you’re happy, and I try to find fun in everything. My day job feels less like a job and more like a performance. I wear a costume (apron) and have my character’s props (pad & pen) and perform choreography and songs to an ever-changing audience. But instead of lines I deliver food, and instead of applause they tip. It works out pretty well for the both of us in the end, usually.

And I share a lot. I share my home with five other roommates, and that makes living much cheaper. I live pretty simply (except for my acute addiction to fine dining) and make use of the resources available in my community. I’m thrifty and find a lot of pleasure in treasure hunting. Much of my creative practice depends on my ability to use one person’s trash and turn it into new treasures. I enjoy the aesthetic of and the hidden past embedded in re-imagined and reused materials.


What 5 things do you always carry with you?

A kazoo, Skip-Bo, emergency red lipstick, my camera, and my journal.


Home Body


Haley’s famous flags

Performing as Home Body @ The Elevens (during Valley F.E.A.S.T)


Working on the Kirkland Ave. Mural


a still from one of her videos





  1. marti brennan says:

    September 14th, 2011at 9:00 pm(#)

    Thank you for introducing everyone to Haley, someone we both have the pleasure of knowing! I’ve known Haley for many years and agree with all that you wrote in your article. Let me just add that Haley is THE SINGLE-MOST INSPIRATIONAL PERSON I have ever met (and I’m not 10 yrs old); her endless enthusiasm, positive energy, kindness, ever-present smile, and wicked sense of humor are a few of my favorite things about Haley. I have been inspired and learned from Haley from the first time I saw her and I’m sure if I lived in Northampton, I’d have to be surgically removed from her hip!!!!
    Thanks again Dana for the great article!
    Marti Brennan (Haley’s mom)

Leave a Response