Femme Visuale: Lindsey Bailey

A new FV is in town, ready to shake things up.

Sometimes just making the drive to Publix is enough of a trip that even the thought of packing, driving to the airport, and then waiting in lines to get scanned by TSA is more than enough to steal my thunder for traveling. Lindsey Bailey, on the other hand, can’t sit still for long, having spent the majority of the past four years living in faraway places like Singapore and Qatar, and traveling to Thailand, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Australia, and others.

As a recent graduate from the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Low-Residency MFA program, she had been working on her thesis from afar while she taught art classes full-time in Doha.

“My thesis was primarily about traveling and trying to assimilate wherever I was,” Bailey explains. “Since I am from the United States and I am now back living in the United States, I don’t think the ‘assimilation’ part is even a question since I am from here. But I’m trying to look at Florida as if it were another country.

In her thesis installation #bangagitatetransitrepeat, most of your five senses were brought to life with musical sounds, smells of garam masala and cinnamon, movement from videos, and bright colors. Since she is constantly building relationships and connecting with people all over the world, her project focused on distinguishing mostly similarities — but some differences —between all of the places she has been to try to show that we are more alike than we realize.

“Because my thesis was focused on living overseas, it was sort of a way for me to deal with returning to the United States again, because it’s quite a transition to come back. There’s a lot you have to get used to again. To me, my thesis came from a sad place because I was paying homage to my time overseas and missing my friends. I had a really hard time in the Middle East because I was missing Singapore while there, and upset that I was sick, on-and-off, for five months of my time in Qatar. So I feel like my thesis was a little bit darker than my previous work.

“It’s not as weird and funny as my other pieces. If you look at the videos I did from the ‘Hi, Neighbor’ series, they are so strange and hilarious because I had people come into my studio and they had a table full of stuff to dress me with however they wanted. Once they left, I would turn on the video camera and I would do these movements based on how they dressed me. I then took that footage and added weird backgrounds and looped it, laughing as I watched myself shuffling across the screen,” Bailey says. “I enjoy when people are confused a little bit and they don’t know whether to laugh or not.”

She moved to Florida at the beginning of August to teach at All Saints Academy, she’s ready to come in and #gomakefun (gotta love her motto!). Bailey loves bringing people together through laughter and play, and many people can appreciate the fact that not all art has to be serious all of the time: You can still send a strong message without being a stick in the mud.

“Play is a major part of who I am as a person, but also how I am able to engage people in taking part. There’s this art myth that you’re innately born with this creative talent or your ideas aren’t valid if you don’t have natural skill, but I tell my students that art is just an idea with follow-through,” she says. “You have to figure out how to make what you want happen, and if that’s having a well-made drawing to get that idea across, then that’s what you need to work on. But if you’re just going to take handfuls of icing and smear it down a doorway and that’s the end of it, then just do that.”

If icing + art doesn’t equal play, I don’t know what does! Speaking of which, this artist has incorporated sugary goodness in her art making since back in her ceramic days.

Bailey has a completely healthy obsession with cakes, making ceramic cakes and either icing them with real frosting or other materials to look like sweet goodness.

“I was really into ‘icing’ the clay pieces that I did by dying caulk and then piping it out like it was frosting and it would dry hard. At first, I was using real icing because I really liked that you could walk into a space and smell this really sweet muckiness,” Bailey says. “I have a 15-year history in clay and I always made all of my glazes because I was never happy with the colors you could buy. I spent a lot of time making and testing glazes to come up with these bright colors. From there, I made whole installations that were completely neon pink or orange or yellow or blue, and it was hilarious to me because I was aiming for this hyper, candy color.”

She pulled out pictures of a clay project that involved squirrel figures, but some of their legs were broken off so she could bake cakes into their hollow little bodies. Then topped them with real icing. Road kill never tasted so sweet.

“I ended up getting into fabrics and costuming later on because the one thing that clay couldn’t do for me is move. I started taking the forms I was making in clay and began making costumes that people could get into. Then the costuming turned into video and sound work, which is what is present in my current art making,” she says.

One of my favorite costumed performance pieces is Poof!! In Movement, which was done at an indoor racquetball court at The University of Texas. (Watch it, it will make your day!).

“Once you get pieces to move, they have to interact with something else, so it’s just better to put more people in there to see what happens! I love Poof!! because there were three dancers that I worked with and a choreographer. If I could go back, I would have recorded what was happening in the doorway of the racquetball court because you had all of these people watching from the bleachers, from the stadium above, but the choreographer and I were standing at the court doorway, below, yelling out cues to the dancers like, “No! Fry like bacon! No, run in a circle!! Go, go, go!” It was just so bizarre and maniacal, but the audience couldn’t hear any of that or see us either," Bailey laughs. 

The transition from clay to costumes was an easy one; she could still create forms that hinted to cakes with their colors and subtle shapes. But they weren’t actual “cake” forms. And, well, dancing cakes pretty much takes the cake.

“This is when I realized that performance can be a bit sad, because once a performance is over, it’s over. Unless you have a video of it, that’s it. You will never get the same performance again twice, even the four performances we did were so drastically different,” she reminisces.

This is why, with all of her exploration, she is always documenting everything.

“I take so many pictures because I love to record where I am. To me, what’s amazing is the green of Florida because I’ve been in the desert for the past year and there was no green. It’s amazing what that can do for you because color does look different there,” Bailey says. “I asked a woman from Delhi, India why she thought color was so important to their culture, because even dump trucks and water trucks are patterned and adorned with flowery banners running across the front windows. She mentioned that everything is appreciated in color. Decoration is a form of respect and gratitude. In America, we just don’t celebrate color the same way.

But for Bailey, every day should be celebrated, and her life and artwork has always been full of vibrant color. She still has boxes to unpack from the Middle East, yet she wasted no time pinning pictures, banners and flags to the walls of her new place.

“I’m trying to repatriate, but do it in a way that’s as a visitor to this country — even though I am from here. I came out of my thesis work with questions, not about my identity necessarily, but who I am as an American now. I have a lot of questions as to where I stand as a citizen of the United States. Especially heading towards a very questionable election. One of the first projects I wanted to do is a fabric piece about my female heroes of the United States, who they are and what they look like,” she says.

“I would also like to make some sort of structure with a window in it, where I can sit and people can come up to me and talk with me about America, like what does “the glory days” mean? How would you describe your American experience? What does that mean to people? I’ve started collecting all of these objects that represent America to certain people. Someone gave me this huge American flag that’s the rainbow flag, someone else gave me a collection of quarters from all of the states.

“I’m not doing this to evoke negativity. I honestly want try to figure out what people think is so great about the United States. Because there are a lot of things that are truly great! But there are a lot of things that aren’t great, as well. I think trying to pinpoint what we should be celebrating in our country, as a country, is really important--especially right now. Because I see other countries celebrating themselves and I feel like we are sort of behind in that aspect,” Bailey says.

To bring the tradition of celebration to Florida, Bailey is working with the Lakeland Art Crawl in December, hosted by Rick Olivo Studio in partnership with Polk Museum of Art, to unite people with her Color Maze, a community weaving project to create a multi-colored tunnel through the trees at the Sun n Fun Aviation Center in Lakeland.

“People can stop by the space and pick a strip of hand-dyed fabric and tie it to wherever they want. As people begin to start tying and weaving different strips of fabric together, weaving in-and-out, the shape will change and grow, creating a maze of color” she explains.

She completed a similar community weaving project in Beijing during an International Children’s Art Festival, transforming a space with colorful fabric. This time it will be much larger and even more interactive!

Throughout her art career, Bailey has always aimed to create an experience for her audience, using art to push past negative realities.

“I’m looking for an experience for people to have, and I want there to be humor involved because I think we get really bogged down with what happens in the world,” Bailey says. “There’s a lot going on, so I feel like there should be a space where people can come and laugh, look at color, participate, have a conversation, or dance around in a costume for a little bit just to take a break from whatever they have to deal with outside and in their own lives.”

To see more of Bailey’s work, please visit her website: cakecrush.com.

Find out more about her Color Maze community weaving project by contacting Ellen Chastain at the Polk Museum of Art ([email protected]), or by visiting: lakelandartcrawl.com.

Instagram: cakecrushonthetown

Urban Dictionary defines Femme Fatale as “a woman with both intelligence and sex appeal that uses these skills to manipulate poor helpless men into doing what she wants. May cause death.” Keeping in line with this concept, Caitlin Albritton's "Femme Visuale" series aims to highlight local women artists and show off some lesser-known talent that's been hiding in the shadows. In the art world, if it ain't big and loud, it ain't being seen (looking at you, Koons). Art as a grand spectacle leaves little room for modest, sincere, or quiet voices, especially women's voices. And I promise, we won’t bite.

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