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100 Colorado Creatives: Alicia Bailey

Installation of materials used for Alicia Bailey's "Lovely and Amazing" series.
Installation of materials used for Alicia Bailey's "Lovely and Amazing" series.
Photo by Alicia Bailey.

#45: Alicia Bailey

Alicia Bailey is an exacting artist who works in -- but isn't limited to -- the book arts, which are the original focus of her Abecedarian Gallery in Denver's Art District on Santa Fe. Creator and curator, Bailey displays a rare attention to detail, difficult processes and the intellectual and personal intimacies tucked between the pages of artist books, prints and box installations. Bailey adheres to that private branch of artistry that is partly scientific in nature; like an art librarian, she amasses work by artists of a similar mind from across the nation.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Terri Bell, artist/gallerist at tbellphotographic

Alicia Bailey at Lakeside.
Alicia Bailey at Lakeside.
Scott Waknin

After a short break, Bailey is revving Abecedarian back up today with its first fall exhibitions: Louise Levergneux: Representations in the Main Gallery and Extended Horizons in the Reading Room; there will be a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, September 20. And on October 4, Bailey will have her own show, Lovely and Amazing -- a tribute to her late great-aunt Ruth Wheeler, a naturalist whose specimens and photographs are incorporated by Bailey into artist books, collages and boxes -- down the street from Abecedarian at Niza Knoll Gallery.

In preparation for this period during which Bailey will be very much in the limelight, we invited her to share her thoughts about the artist's life by answering our 100CC questionnaire. Read on to learn her point of view.

"Animal Mineral Vegetable #2," artists' book from the "Lovely and Amazing Series."
"Animal Mineral Vegetable #2," artists' book from the "Lovely and Amazing Series."
Photo by Alicia Bailey.

Continue reading for more from Alicia Bailey.  

Abecedarian Gallery
Abecedarian Gallery
Heidi Zednik

Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

Carl Jung -- his commitment to exploring ways of thriving, not in spite of, but because of the opposites he believed are part of human experience, is something I've explored on a surface level but would love to delve deeper into. Alchemy, archetypes, the collective unconscious . . . when I was able to grasp these ideas, my feelings of connection to myself and everything outside myself shifted rather dramatically.

I'd invite Louise Bourgeois to join us. The thought of Bougeois and Jung together makes my head spin. Jung was an advocate of the use of creativity as a tool to understand and heal the self; Bourgeois an exemplar of this tactic.

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

Brewster Kahle -- Kahle is an inventor, philanthropist, internet pioneer, digital librarian and internet pioneer. He is also the founder of the Internet Archive and Wayback Machine. Kahle places equally high value on every aspect of the continuum of knowledge. He is as passionate about ancient book arts as he is about the digital world.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

The devaluing of objects in favor of images of objects. More than a trend, it is prevalent not only in the world of objects but in nearly every aspect of contemporary life.

What's your day job?

Honestly, it depends on the day. My work time is mostly split between working as a studio artist and working as a gallerist. They complement one another brilliantly. My studio work is better because my job as gallerist gives me time and space to examine the work of others in my field. Installations and independent curating gigs are informed by the skills at presentation and ordering I've honed as a studio artist. I also work on a contract basis with a nonprofit in my field and manage some rental real estate I own.

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

First off, I'd carve out more time and space in my schedule, perhaps by trusting my team of assistants and interns, both in the studio and the gallery, to do more (and of course pay them more). I'd shift my curatorial focus to building collections rather than exhibiting collections. Those collections (along with stewardship funds) would be donated to the many institutions that are committed to preserving cultural record via artists' book collections, as well as to institutions that do not currently collect artists' books, starting with the Denver Art Museum and the Auraria Campus libraries. Spending money is a lot of work, so no doubt I'd get exhausted and decide to donate piles of money to organizations I believe in so they could work to spend it, and I could go work in my studio.

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

We can all do this -- on an individual, institutional, corporate and governmental level, put the same level of resources (funding, energy, research, labor) into the cultural realm as is already poured into recreation.

I have always lived in Colorado and what I see is exciting. Each season brings more support to cultural enterprise in Denver: some of it institutional, much of it grassroots. So I say thanks. More, please.

Continue reading for more from Alicia Bailey.  

Installation of process materials for "Burning Me Open," University of Denver, Penrose Library, Special Collections
Installation of process materials for "Burning Me Open," University of Denver, Penrose Library, Special Collections
Photo by Alicia Bailey.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

This is tough, there are so many of us. I've narrowed it to three.

1) Mary Ellen Long is a paper and installation artist whose work I first saw thirty-plus years ago. She uses pubic and private outdoor spaces, frequently forested as exhibition venues. She builds Forest Rooms by rearranging the elements in the environment along with introducing materials. She introduces and arranges materials in such a way that one can wander into a space in a wilderness area without knowing they are in a constructed Forest Room. Mary Ellen is also a role model for aging -- she will be celebrating her eightieth birthday next year and is still going strong. I will be exhibiting her work in a two-person show at Abecedarian next summer.

2) Miss Claire Pimm

3) Me

What's on your agenda for the rest of 2013 and beyond?

Every year my goal is to write more checks to more artists for more money than I did the year before. I've met that goal consistently and plan to keep it up.

Next month another iteration of my Lovely and Amazing project will be on view at Niza Knoll Gallery here in Denver. I've been working on this project for over ten years, so the exhibit is retrospective in nature. In January, I will be exhibiting another series of boxes and assemblages, called Two Plus, at Spark Gallery, also in Denver. I have been working with the University of Denver on building an archive of my artists' book process materials. I'd like to get this finished up by spring 2014.

At the gallery, I will be exhibiting some of my biggest heroes in the book arts world, including Mary Ellen Long (see above), who will be in a two-person show along with Melissa Jay Craig.

Who do you think will get noticed in Denver's arts community this year?

It's time for Denver to take more notice of Heather Doyle-Maier.

Letterpress printer and poet Tom Parsons is one of Denver's unsung heroes and a remarkable living resource. Recent efforts include the acquisition of the Englewood Depot as a home for a Living Museum of Letterpress Printing, Typography, Design, Poetry & Art.

On the University of Denver campus, in the Anderson Academic Commons, Penrose Library has used the recent remodel of the library as an opportunity to created dedicated exhibition spaces. Strange as it is to enter a library with so few shelved books, it is an inevitable reality as academic libraries shift their focus to serve digital needs. And so worth visiting, again and again, as the exhibitions will rotate. Best thing is, the library is open pretty much all the time. Visit Alicia Bailey's website or Abecedarian online for more information. Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.

Do you have a suggestion for a future profile? Feel free to leave your picks in the comments.


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