Lovely and Amazing at University of Denver

I’m once again thrilled that the pieces I’ve created using from the archives of long-time Denver resident Ruth Wheeler will be on view in public spaces . . .

Lovely and Amazing is a series I began in 2006, is a tribute to Ruth Wheeler, beloved biology teacher, naturalist, youth advocate and feminist who lived and worked in north Denver for 70 years. Filled with curiosity, Ruth found the natural world a place of endless delight. She left behind a collection of biological specimens, notes and photographs which I have incorporated into a series of three-dimensional collages, boxes and book works. Wasp and Praying Mantis pictured below.

Nearly all the book works (and a few of the boxes) from the Lovely and Amazing series are on view at University of Denver’s library January 5 through March 29. The former Penrose Library, renamed Anderson Academic Commons after a complete remodel of the existing building, now houses curated exhibition areas throughout the three level structure. Thanks to the ongoing support of Special Collections librarian Kate Crow and Anderson Academic Commons exhibits curator Rebecca Macey, my work is on display on the main level, strategically located near the main entrance/coffee shop. The library’s generous open hours (24/7 during some weeks of the year) puts this at the top of the the list for Denverites and visitors looking to engage with interesting exhibits at odd hours.

On the top level of the library is the Gottesfeld Room where the bulk of their collection of artists’ books are stored in glass fronted cabinets. The room is open access during library hours but for hands on viewing of the books, visitors need to make an appointment with Special Collections, open from 9-5 Monday – Friday.

gottesfeld

Although I’m not a University of Denver “Pioneer” (i.e. alum), I am pleased beyond measure that Penrose Library Special Collections has taken on the role of designated repository of my work in the book arts field.

Alicia Bailey process materials

What this makes possible in terms of display are exhibits such as the 2013 exhibit in Special Collections in the lower level of the library featuring the process materials of one of my edition works, Burning Me Open, alongside process materials from a series of works by Laura Wait (whose book works are also collected by Penrose Library Special Collections, University of Denver).

The books from this series were also been exhibited at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland in 2013.

Also on view at University of Denver are books of mine created in response to works in Lovely and Amazing, such as Mica (pictured below).

Two Plus at Spark

Alicia Bailey Two Plus install1

Two Plus – a series of box works I’ve been working on for several years, on view at Spark Gallery, North Annex, in Denver, Colorado January 30 – February 23 2014.

Alicia Bailey Transformationist detail 2

I work from the premise that an object is anything we can talk or think about (including intangibles such as emotions, beliefs, fears). More than one of any object creates a minimum of one relationship or connection; the more objects, the more connections. For me, examining the nature of objects involves considering how they are related to both their properties, and their connections with other objects.

Alicia Bailey Player detail 5

I have taken on as my task the creation of connections between objects and the subsequent examination of the relationships between objects.

Alicia Bailey Lovers detail 1

This task is a time consuming, painstaking process of achieving balance and accord with the disparate palette of colors, shapes and associations a varied object selection creates. The time spent selecting, caressing, arranging and perhaps fixing in place objects is time well spent as, in the words of the French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari,

“A life that makes the greatest number of connections to other things and alters itself in the process is a life lived to its fullest.”

Alicia Bailey Golden detail 1

For the Two Plus series, I’ve been working with objects that relate specifically to a characteristic embodied by either a particular individual, or to a time/place in my history that was governed in part by a specific characteristic. Thus the objects selected have either a direct link or strong associative link to these particular characteristics. The series as a whole has developed into an examination personalities both real and imagined.

Lovely and Amazing at Niza Knoll Gallery

Alicia Bailey l a viewers with maglite 1
This year I have been able to exhibit this multi-faceted body of work in two stellar locations. In June/July 2014 the Lovely and Amazing books were displayed at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, Oregon and this fall the boxes and 3-D collages in the series will be exhibited at Niza Knoll gallery in Denver.

Lovely and Amazing, begun in 2006, is a tribute to Ruth Wheeler, beloved biology teacher, naturalist, youth advocate and feminist who lived and worked in north Denver for 70 years. Ruth found the natural world a place of endless delight. She left behind a collection of biological specimens, notes and photographs which I have incorporated into a series of three-dimensional collages, boxes and book works.

Alicia Bailey Lovely and Amazing in progress

Ruth was my great-aunt, and, because she raised my father, her role in our family life was much as a grandmother’s might be. She was educated, reverent, passionate and endlessly curious. Unlike anyone else I have ever known, Ruth was an important figure in my childhood. Visits to her house might include walking her ferret around the block on a leash, trying to coax the giant snapping turtles to do more than lie around in the big wash tub in the back yard or agitating the miniature alligators that lived in the basement utility sink.
Scan

My favorite visits were those that included feeding the snakes from the stock of white mice that Ruth raised for that purpose. There was a kinkajou living in the basement. He had a peculiar odor but I nonetheless loved creeping down to the basement at night to watch his nocturnal pacing, his protruding eyes luminous in the dark.

Born in 1899, Ruth lived, lucid, independent and strong, well into her 99th year. Although other family members moved in and out of that house over the years, it was always Ruth’s house in my mind. This rotating roster of inhabitants seemed always to perch around the edges of the real inhabitants of the house, Ruth’s collections of creatures. Not pets, these birds, mammals, reptiles were collected, cared for and eventually preserved.

Alicia Bailey Frog box in progress

During her final decade, I stayed with her on my visits to Denver. I spent afternoons recording her as she told and re-told tales of her life. Concerned about what would happen to her collections, Ruth started gifting me with a variety of biological specimens. As I boxed up her various collections (things such as insect specimens, snakeskin’s in old jelly jars, stuffed birds on sticks, owl pellets, taxidermied small rodents, fossils and preserved plants) she told me stories. She told me about the ornithologist who taught her a down and dirty method of preserving birds and other small creatures and about the day she was called home from school when one of her king bull snakes escaped its cage and was coiled in the bathtub, my great-grandmother trying to retrieve it with a spatula.

Alicia Bailey Snake Box detail

Later, when readying her house for sale, I retrieved and stored many of the letters, photographs, family heirlooms she, along with other family members, had left behind. Seven years passed before I began incorporating these objects into my own studio work. I relish the days I spend in the studio working on this project, thinking of Ruth with a smile.