First published: Winter 2010
Giant cyclops’ skulls and Bigfoot bones litter his backyard, while demons and gargoyles guard the perimeter and a rocket ship sits poised to blast off into outer space. Dozens of shiny robots stand watch over his workshop while strange scientific experiments ooze and bubble from a secret laboratory that would make Dr Frankenstein envious.
This is the zany world of artist Clayton Bailey, whose busy hands and playful imagination have not taken a rest in more than 50 years.Underlying all of his work lurks a mischievous sense of humour. ‘I try to wake up every morning with enthusiasm for something new,’ Bailey said. ‘Whatever I am working on at that particular time is what I’m excited about.’ Skilled at sculpting both clay and metal, as well as having a keen interest in the sciences, has turned out to be a great combination. His work has been shown throughout the United States and around the world, including Japan, Germany, Canada and Brazil. With a focus on kinetics and light, his pieces literally ‘come alive’.
‘I grew up reading Mad magazine and had a fascination with chemistry, science and space travel, as did most of the country at that time,’ Bailey said. ‘What we did for fun was make smoke and stink bombs.’ His first kinetic ceramics were created with fish tank aerators, washing machine parts and motion detectors from security lights. Recent works harness the power of the wind.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Bailey entered the University of Wisconsin in Madison as a pharmacy major but soon became more interested in ceramics. He graduated with a master’s degree in art in 1962. After travelling the country, he moved to Port Costa, California, and began his career in the Art Department at California State University, Hayward, where he would become the chairman in 1980. He spent 27 years there.
‘You have to find a place that you can live,’ he said. ‘I enjoyed my career in teaching and I met a lot of good people.’
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #71