Manifest Destiny and the Digital Frontier Scott Bailey, 2010
Whether through the vernacular of painting or interdisciplinary forms such as sculpture, video and installation, my work has often expressed a reverence for the landscape and a desire to understand its influence on us, as well as our influence on it. Recently, I have been specifically focused on exploring the ways that technology can both reveal and obscure the world. Satellite surveillance technology, for example, has made the landscape evermore accessible, evermore detached from direct experience, and evermore loaded with political and existential baggage. Increasingly, I find myself working in the interstices between computer and human capabilities.
My search for unspoiled elements of the sublime has taken me continually further afield. In current projects, I use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, precise US Geological Survey (USGS) Digital Elevation Models (DEM), and terrain generating software to create comprehensive, stunningly photo-realistic, virtual worlds. With the use of the elevation data and the proper detailing, they have all of the geological features and can become virtually indistinguishable from the real place. The technology gives me complete control over these digital landscapes, including the ability to digitally add snow, objects (plants), colors, textures, lighting, and atmospheric conditions in a creative process akin to applying paint to canvas.
Playing creator, explorer, and documenter of these terrains, I have used them to suggest new responses to the landscape with forms ranging from trompe l’oeil realistic photos to painted Romantic landscapes and geometric abstractions. The terrains I am creating and exploring on my computer are often from politically or culturally relevant locations, but ones for which direct experience is logistically impossible.
From "Oversight" exhibition text, by Scott Lawrimore, Lawrimore Project, Seattle:
PROLOGUE TO PAINTING During a bloody Intifada, the horrors of September 11, and when the initial bombing of Baghdad began in 2003, northwest artist Scott Bailey was teaching and working in Cairo, Egypt. It was from this unique social, political and psychological perspective that the imperative to respond fomented. As a young artist who has traveled to over fifty countries and who has often incorporated those experiences and stylistic influences into his work, it was never more difficult to be a stranger in a strange land.
As a formal, expressionist painter steeped in the modernist tradition and its associated non-objective baggage, now back in the U.S. Bailey is forced to put into question his own practice in the face of the shock and awe of violence and the political events that follow.
PAINTING FIRST At first blush Bailey’s paintings are juicy, gestural abstractions with rational, seemingly mathematically derived compositional strategies. Whether impastoed, scraped, dripped or incised, the artist is adamant about paint being paint. The palette is amped up—acid greens and purples meet saturated reds, blues and pristine whites. Viewed as pure painting alone, they work—‘work’ the way Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park” compositions transcend their subject matter—‘work’ like Thiebaud’s decadently frosted canvases featuring bold color alongside bold color. Where Bailey’s work differs decisively from the above two examples is content. In the same way that Luc Tuymans’ political content is central to understanding his practice, what lies beyond the sensual surface of Bailey’s paintings is key to any discussion of his project as a whole.
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