One to Watch

Becky Bailey: The Shape of Shared Experiences

The first thing one might notice about Becky Bailey’s artworks—which exist somewhere between painting, collage, and sculpture—are their shapes. Rather than starting with a rectangular canvas, Becky creates her scenes from the inside out, resulting in trapezoidal and irregular shapes patched together on hand-cut panels with hand-sculpted frames. With this approach, Becky achieves something entirely new with each work, which might depict human figures engaged in collective activities or in solitary moments of reflection. Becky aims for her scenes to remind us of our interconnectedness as integral parts of a greater whole. With this message, the shapes of her artworks—which forego discrete and containable canvases for expansive, unpredictable panels—take on new meaning as well, and spur us to connect with the scene in a new way.

Becky Bailey holds a B.A. in fine arts from the University of Pennsylvania. She has exhibited prolifically throughout the United States, including at The Other Art Fair in Brooklyn; The Studios at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts; and Linus Galleries in Pasadena, California.

1. Tell us about who you are and what you do. What’s your background?

I like to describe myself as multidisciplinary artist and designer. I make artwork that blends painting, printmaking, collage, sculpture, and surface design. I have a B.A. in fine arts, but I was also trained in textile design and now work as a surface designer, so my art and design work constantly bleed into one another. My approach is very mixed-media and I love to create vivid, dream-like scenes that suggest alternative approaches to current realities. I make the work with the goal of creating something that encourages the viewer to imagine new possibilities.

2. What does your work aim to say? What are the major themes you pursue in your work? Give an example of a specific work that demonstrates it.

At its core, my work aims to challenge accepted ideologies that pride competition over connection and individualism over solidarity. To do this, I make pieces that celebrate shared experience, exploring the feeling of electricity between individuals that happens during shared participation in an activity. Émile Durkheim called it “collective effervescence.” It could happen at a show, in a yoga class, at a party, or in a church. I argue it can happen alone as well, amidst the mundane and day-to-day, when you suddenly realize you’re part of a whole. In the piece “Synthetic Reality,” I tried to capture a feeling of connectedness that can happen when you’re at a concert or a dance party, when the music captures you and you feel a kinship with a room full of strangers. I was wondering what it takes to create that connection—a certain beat, the right light, or an idea to attach to?

3. Can you walk us through your process for creating a work from beginning to end?

I am constantly excited by new ideas I find while reading, so my process usually starts somewhat organically from there. I notate and brainstorm, and with my ideas and research in mind, I do a lot of drawing and painting and printmaking without knowing exactly where it’s going in the moment. But with that comes a large library of images to work from when I start the collage process. In arranging pieces of my own paintings and drawings together, a scene starts to form. I’m usually working on multiple pieces at once. When I’m satisfied a composition is creating the right mood, I cut a panel to the size and shape, adhere the collage to it, and hand-sculpt a frame that suits the scene inside.

4. What series or artistic project are you working on next?

I’m at the beginning of something pretty new for me. Working with the same themes, I am venturing into installation. I’m creating artwork to translate into fabric or tapestry, with the aim of using it to construct a kind of physical space for ritual. The idea captured me a little while ago and now I can’t let it go.

5. What memorable responses have you had to your work?

A couple of times people have told me they’ve never seen anything like my work before. As much as I possibly can, my goal is to create something new and fresh, so those are words that I hold very dear.

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About the Author

Bethany Fincher is a curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at saatchiart.com/artadvisory.