As a painter, thinker, and self-described “indigenous male earthling of the United States of America”, Wilmington-based artist Carl Bailey implements concepts of abstraction with a sense of wonder.
Never driven by the consensus narrative, he is only concerned with primary sources -
artworks and their respective artists, their relationship to time and place, and discovering their universal humanity.
Central to Bailey’s philosophy and creative practice is a humility and reverence for the unknown; the realms that art opens aren’t merely for the mind to consume, contain, or resolve. He is an explorer who regards insights, anecdotes, and ideas as treasures to collect and revere for aspects that he understands and appreciates, as well as those that he does not - preserving mystery is essential. Bailey poetically writes:
My society’s mandatory education in kindergarten was the activity of scribble finger painting (a child doing surrealist automatism or abstract expressionism without guidance)
With brushes painted squares that transformed to houses because of guidance from my mother
In elementary art education told of Vincent Van Gogh, an unappreciated and tragic figure during his lifetime, then Pablo Picasso a child genius and living a successful art career
Also Jackson Pollock who had a new way to put paint on canvas and my favorite, Leonardo da Vinci, the prime example of a renaissance man wow! An autodidactic polymath
no schooling no teacher (was part of the guild system but his self study has merit)
At college enrolled in art history as an elective
The lectures were about Vincent Van Gogh Paul Gauguin Henri Matisse Pablo Picasso
people that went against the status quo (later becoming the status quo) and succeeded
I was in disagreement with the lecturer’s explanation of aesthetics...
I read books about the cultural greats...and copied incessantly what was considered milestone pictures.
I learned of Aaron Douglas Georgia O'keeffe
Pierre-Joseph-Redoute Henri Fantin Latour Rachel Ruysh Gerard Van Spaendonck and Andy Warhol
Decided to set in the business of art and the art of business
Enrolled in college for serigraph (screen printing) I did not like it however told by instructor I had an instinct like Mark Rothko
It took me 14 years to comprehend him and other color field painters
In his work, Bailey has little concern for superficial flourish or extraneous stylistic choices, as he has for definitive philosophical answers. A purist, he is single-mindedly focused on pursuing each idea organically, with a faith that the result possesses insight into the path itself; for him the process of art-making isn’t an attempt to alter, perfect, or beautify. In his work, painting is not a means to an end but rather an act of searching, each of his bodies of work following a divergent approach to abstraction.
In the studio Bailey is surrounded by current work - still life line drawings in opaque paint over backgrounds of thin, translucent layers of automatic brushstrokes. Evident is a consideration of the process of observation and drawing - creating images and then obscuring them - or executing random drawings and then searching for images within them. These are works that reveal an ongoing negotiation with paint - striving to control it yet relinquishing at times - while creating relationships between bold colors and broad patterns or mixing myriad colors in dense noisy fields.
Bailey begins with a rough idea, engaging it with diligence and labor, and observing intently for the moment when the work becomes satisfying; it is in that moment the work is finished. There is a larger truth at work here and on most days you can find Carl in the studio deeply invested in determining what that is through this process, studying a painting and wondering either “Why isn't this satisfying yet?” or “Why is this so satisfying to me now?” with equal curiosity - pondering a multitude of possibilities, yet ultimately never needing to know the answer.
Another interest is archaeology and anthropology
I began focusing on prehistoric cave painting and noticed similarities across cultures separated by thousand of miles with no mass communication
It seems to be a natural human development
past present and for future generations
Eureka there is a collective consciousness (espoused by Carl Jung)
A universal aesthetic
There is a normal average human motor skill development and people are at different levels and choose what level they execute and exhibit. This is a logical explanation for non-objective pictures and abstract representational imaging. My skill set is an amalgamation of those I copied and part of my current motor skill for drawing.
I have a work area where I produce floral motifs, color field and geometric abstraction paintings
Sometimes the geometric abstraction seems to be sacred geometry
Others have an optical illusion with interesting pareidolias
The wind of fate sent me to the Creative Vision Factory
February 2012 I met Michael Kalmbach Executive Director and Ken Segal...on the sidewalk outside the factory a conversation got started. Michael explained his mission. It was appropriate for me...Creative Vision Factory has expanded my cultural capital and invited me into a social network that is compatible.
Bailey’s adoration for creative work and thinking is effusive and infectious; we first spoke to him in Brooklyn at the opening of Storytellers at LAND, which included the narrative work of his colleague Knicoma Frederick.
When visiting his work space, reading his writings, or considering his work one feels confronted with the private or even lonely nature of the artist’s experimental journey into history and the Self. Meeting with Carl, however, there seems to be nothing lonely about his practice, nor is there a sense of privacy or inhibition in his paintings.
Bailey’s foundational wisdom is his acceptance of himself and his purpose in life with a version of faith - the idea that what is and what is meant to be underlies his commitment to painting. He feels compelled to paint, so he believes this is what he’s meant to do, and accordingly the Creative Vision Factory is where he’s meant to be. This attitude is reflected in his oeuvre as well; each mark left on the surface responds to previous choices made, with the sense that they’re underpinned by a significant intentionality despite their spontaneous nature.
Carl Bailey’s work has been exhibited previously at Fleisher/Ollman in Philadelphia and throughout Wilmington, Delaware, including contributions to various murals and public art commissions.