My journey and growth as an artist has been defined by my understanding of what art is, as well as by ideas and topics that are important to me. I believe that the most effective art is the kind that tells a story and conveys truths about the world and the artist that created it. Before moving to New York City, I grew up in Portland, Oregon and spent most of my time outdoors and riding horses. I decided my junior year of highschool that I wanted to pursue art and attend art school. I heard someone say that you don’t necessarily have to draw or paint to be an artist, and that you need to make your life your art. This completely changed my understanding of what it means to be an artist, and how it is an inert state of existence rather than just an action or idea. I am constantly thinking about how art relates to life, and how this dynamic is continually pushing and pulling in every direction without limits. I make art because I love to create and investigate the world we live in. I cannot rest without putting my mind to use in new and creative ways. In my work, I primarily oil paint but utilize many other mediums as well, such as collage, screenprinting, and sculpture. I am drawn to and fascinated by iconic imagery and found-media, which I like to incorporate in my work. I am particularly fond of 1980’s and 90’s imagery as these convey feelings of nostalgia in me that have become a running theme in my work. Nostalgia and themes of childhood give me feelings of comfort and security, and although these images may not be from my own era, they still convey nostalgic feelings that myself and others can identify with. I am inspired by artists like Andy Warhol who found the innate beauty in media imagery that would otherwise be overlooked. I am also very passionate about social and political topics, which I display and discuss in my work in many different forms. Themes of feminism and social justice are causes that are addressed frequently in my art, which I like to portray in a satirical or juxtaposed manner. I am drawn to art that appears to be beautiful or aesthetically pleasing on the surface, but upon further investigation is found to have a deeper, more intrinsic meaning that inspires a discussion. In my 2019 screenprint piece titled, “I’m Not a Witch!”, I collaged together imagery from a vintage Japanese manga that portrays conflicting ideas of femininity and stereotypes surrounding women. This piece is meant to question the imposed duality that many women are faced with in our society with regard to gender roles and expectations of women. By using this found media and changing the context of their existence, it creates a new narrative that brings light to a different theme as a whole that transcends the original source. I have learned valuable spatial and observational skills by practicing portraiture. Capturing the likeness of an individual by painting their face is a passion of mine, and creating self-portraits has proved to be an effective method of practicing observation and self-awareness that I had never attempted before attending art school. I will often create a self-portrait as a meditative exercise and as a way to uncover a truth about myself through painting and visualization. I also enjoy creating portraits of others, including celebrities and iconic figures. My piece, “Teen Idol,” which consists of three portraits of the late actor River Phoenix, questions ideas of celebrity culture, idolization, and the value of loss. The three paintings are configured similarly to a display on an altar, almost as if they are to be worshipped or pay homage to the cult of celebrity. During this most recent Spring Semester, I have created most of my work while staying home under quarantine. While spending so much time at home, I have had a lot of time to reflect on our current situation and how fragile life is. Responding to these thoughts and feelings using art has been extremely cathartic for me and given me a creative outlet during such an unstable time. My recent untitled installation consists of three self-portrait paintings accompanied by three corresponding surgical masks that I had hand-sewn. This piece was made in response to how bizarre and frightening our current situation is, and how basic medical equipment has become so incredibly rare and valuable as a result. The designer brands printed on each mask represent how material possessions that used to be held to such unproportionate value are now seemingly worthless in the face of a crisis. I painted the self-portraits of myself wearing the masks to highlight my feelings of isolation and disillusionment with our current state of society. I have also been reflecting on my childhood and how grateful I am for my family during my time at home. My mother and I uncovered some old photos of my brother and I from when I was a baby that I had never seen until now. Inspired by a recent conversation on artist Wade Guyton, I combined some of these photos with images from my favorite childhood picture book in copy/scanned images. I kept layering and repeating the images, allowing the scanner to make mistakes and distort the photos until they almost became unrecognizable. I was fascinated in how Guyton uses machines to create “paintings”, and gives new artistic value to reproduced images and text. The final results, which I have titled “This is Me” are framed and hanging in my stairway, reminiscent of typical family photos. To continue my investigation into the media and the reproduction of images, I have also been combining this theme into my concern for the climate crisis and the deteriorating state of our planet. This semester I have been introduced into using video mapping as an art medium, which utilizes projecting images onto different surfaces. My video installation “Reflective Ideology” consists of several edited interviews of River Phoenix discussing climate change and environmental activism. These videos are overlaid with stock footage of waterfalls and clouds, with multiple effects to distort the imagery. This piece was inspired by the increasing number of wildfires that have destroyed communities and ecosystems as a result of climate change. I implemented interview clips that are several decades old as these ideas are still pertinent today. The video is projected onto water that has shimmery paint mixed into it to reflect the image with a holographic effect. Over the past few years of studying at SVA, my artistic practice has undergone a significant transformation in terms of ideas and materials. My work originally consisted of mainly painting and drawing, but I have expanded to using plexiglass, video, collage, and textiles. All of these different mediums that I have experimented with have effectively brought my work into the third-dimension and allowed them to exist in the sculptural realm. I like to revere much of my work as independent objects, or objects that exist in a series. Although my latest work has been in such a wide variance of mediums, the one factor that connects them is that they all are very personal to myself and my beliefs. I like to uncover truth or investigate what we know about our world and human nature. My artistic practice has developed many more layers during my last two semesters at SVA, and digs much deeper into these ideas than it had before. This final semester I have further defined the ethos of my artist practice and established my personal values and beliefs through my work. Overall, these pieces have been my way of processing both social topics and interpersonal ideas.
©Bailey Smith 2020