Friday, November 19, 2004
James W. Bailey's Art-O-Matic List
You didn't expect James W. Bailey to just send me a list of his top ten artists from Art-O-Matic, did you? Here is Bailey's list, at nearly 2,000 elegant and passionate words:
James W. Bailey’s Top List of Angels and Devils Working the Mystery of God in Art-O-Matic 2004
Art-O-Matic 2004 – A Mississippi-style Juke Joint of Art
The Religion of the Juke Joint
"The juke joints in Mississippi are the only place in the state where God and the Devil get equal time." James Edward Bailey, my great-grandfather.
"I’ve been to Art-O-Matic 2004 and I’ve been Slain in the Spirit. There are angels and devils working mischief in that building and thank God for it." James W. Bailey.
What does it mean to be Slain in the Spirit?
Being slain is a phenomenon that is sweeping through many Pentecostal-Charismatic churches in the South today. When "slain" people are knocked on the floor unconscious, some shake, some laugh, or lay paralyzed unable to move. Many Charismatic leaders are teaching that believers need to experience the "slaying" often. However, there are some reported extreme manifestations of this behavior where some "slain" individuals have stripped and exhibited lewd behavior. A few churches have even organized patrols to monitor their congregations because of the high amount of sexual immorality that has been manifested.
So the question is this: is being "slain" a God thing?
Catfish Alley – A Young Mississippi Boy’s Perspective on Cutting Edge Art
I was born and raised in a small, quiet genteel Mississippi town called Columbus. My hometown is famous for two things:
1. Being the birth place of Tennessee Williams.
2. Having a treasure trove collection of Ante-Bellum Greek Revival Plantation Mansions that were never destroyed during the Civil War because the Yankees decided at the last second to attack and destroy a nearby town called West Point.
As a young boy, however, the thing that interested me more than anything else in my hometown was the Black Culture and Music that was to be found in a blacks-only business and Juke Joint district called Catfish Alley; Catfish Alley was off-limits to whites. Whites partied in their bars and blacks partied in their Juke Joints and the two cultures never dared cross that racial line.
My father, however, was a fireman and I used to visit the mysterious and wild Juke Joints of Catfish Alley with him when he would make annual fire inspections.
The African-American community found its niche and prospered in Catfish Alley. Former post-Civil War era servants developed their own businesses and civic life from the part of town known as "Catfish Alley," which is actually a block on 4th Street South between College Street and Main Street.
According to the late Dr. E.J. Stringer, a Columbus, Mississippi, civil rights leader, politician, minister and dentist, Catfish Alley was the hub of activity for rural blacks who came into town to sell fresh vegetables and the catfish they caught along the way.
"Long before the 1940s, there were provisions to either sell the catfish uncooked, or cook it on the spot and sell it by the plate. When it was cooked, the aroma of the catfish filled the air, thus the name ‘Catfish Alley’. As long as I can remember, Catfish Alley served as a place where laborers gathered for transportation provided by employers, and it was a place where people congregated to talk and to exchange news and ideas. It was the site of black-owned businesses and professional offices, and a place for people who made a difference in the black community." Dr. E. J. Stringer.
Dr. Stringer, who once had his dental office in "The Alley," said that his greatest desire was to see people get along; to achieve oneness of community. He died in 1995.
When I was 8 years old I walked into a Juke Joint in Catfish Alley with my father on a fire inspection and was first Slain in the Spirit when I saw the most amazing collection of Mississippi African-American outsider and folk art that was hanging from every square inch of available wall space.
I had never seen anything like it. Standing in the presence of this incredible collection of art produced by people I had never heard off, featuring imagery I had never seen, left me breathless. I had never been exposed to the voices and imagination of black people in my home state in such a personal, powerful and emotive way. I knew that God was working through the people who created this art to send a message to the world. I stood there transfixed trying to understand what God was saying through these works of art.
The Blues of Art
Down in Mississippi, we have a saying, "You ain’t heard it if you ain’t listened to it." In the world of Blues music what this means is this: If you think you’re listening to the real Blues when you pay $500 for a scalped ticket to an intimate plush venue to hear an English "blues" guitarist sing the "blues" while you and your date sip on Heinekens, then you ain’t really ever heard the real Blues.
To hear the real deal, you’re gonna need to slip back in time, wind your way down South to Mississippi and find a Juke Joint. The real Blues is played by people you’ve never heard of: Musicians and singers like, "Preacher Peacock" Morgan, David "Three-Strings" Jones, Bill "Sunday School" Taylor, Johnny "T-Rex" Martin, etc. These people never had a recording contract, never cut a record, but played their hearts and souls out at Juke Joints that have long disappeared. But people did hear them, though. I am one who bears witness to voices of Angels.
Art-O-Matic 2004 – I Went Down Into The Diamond Mine To Find A Diamond And Discovered The Rough Instead
Art-O-Matic is a Mississippi-style Juke Joint of a Diamond Mine of Art. Sure, there’s a lot of rough stuff there; and there are some diamonds. But the rough stuff gives birth to the diamonds, not the other way around.
Lenny has mentioned that he has noticed a lot of the Top Ten Lists are gravitating toward a common theme. I have noticed that as well. That troubles me. It’s too easy to go into a diamond mine and shift the chafe for the wheat and pick out the diamonds that fall easily to the bottom of the basket.
No disrespect to the creators of the diamonds, many of whom I know and respect, but their diamonds have already been, for the most part, presented in the sanctuary of the white cube space. I climbed down into the diamond mine looking for the raw energy, the troubling elements, the fractured particles and the substance of the rough stuff that gives birth to the diamonds.
Walking into Art-O-Matic 2004 sent me reeling in the years back to being 8 years old and walking into that Juke Joint in Catfish Alley in Columbus, Mississippi. I found art and artists that I know God has spoken through.
I wasn’t looking for the diamonds to develop my list. I was looking for the Devil Himself to jump right out of a whiskey bottle and pop up in my face and dare me to drink that bottle. The works of the artists who have made my list did just that.
To have a personal conversation with God you have got to first dance with the Devil. These artists have put their vision ahead of every other consideration and have walked with the Devil and talked with the Lord.
I could have easily chosen another group to list. I went with the powerfully spiritual feeling that overwhelmed me with those works I saw during my two visits.
Most of these artists I don't know and have never heard of. A few I do know. One young woman, whose name I will not name out of respect for her privacy, has already tasted the sting of censorship with two beautiful nude photographs in a recent regional exhibition. Her two photographs in question are on exhibit at Art-O-Matic. Art-O-Matic is to be commended for supporting the exhibition of challenging works of art.
The Devil will not silence these artists.
If you’re looking for diamonds, they are some to be found at Art-O-Matic. If you’re looking, and willing, to explore deep into subterranean world of local art, you will see some amazing stuff.
For those artists, art critics, social critics, critic critics and others who spend more time destroying than creating, know that part of my Scots-Irish Mississippi personality wants to engage you in an endless debate over the merits of Art-O-Matic.
Indeed, I do have certain issues myself. But they related to organizational issues. I believe Art-O-Matic needs to become a artist member not for profit 501(c)3 organization because I believe the enormous energy of the artists who are so passionate about this event needs to be brought together in a more effective way to sustain, market and promote the event.
But for those relentless critics of Art-O-Matic who will never be satisfied, another part of my personality wants to just say what we say in the beautiful Magnolia State when we are just plain worn-out arguing with knuckle-heads over their stupidity. We cut them off with a big Rebel Yell and scream, "Fuck all Ya’ll!"
I offer my following list in the revolutionary spirit of radical anarchist activist, Abbie Hoffman, of "Steal This Book" fame.
I dedicate my list to the vision and integrity of Philip Barlow. May Mr. Barlow’s vision for OPTIONS 05 be presented sometime, somewhere, somehow. If I have selected just one artist who might represent just a particle of Mr. Barlow’s vision for OPTIONS 05, then I have done something important.
Steal This Art Today List! - The following artists present work worth the minimum risk of a serious art collector being charged with felony grand theft in their efforts to steal work from right out underneath the nose of the artist because these works show great potential of future increases in value. If you’re an asshole art collector, get the work of these artists now and pray the artist commits suicide in a very tragic and high-profile public fashion, thus driving up the value of your collection. These works are insanely under-priced for value. For those art collectors who care about deeper issues with the art they buy, know this: These artists are talking with God. Their conversations with Him are interesting.
My list is in alphabetic order, like the way my momma taught me. I choose the following:
N. John Grunwell
R. Will Helms
M. Erin Hunter
G. Rashia Linendoll
M. Lisa McCarty
M. Iver Olson
J. Kim Reyes
A. Bailey Rosen
D. Lisa Schumaier
To all the participating artists of Art-O-Matic 2004, I say stay true unto yourself and unto your vision.
Rock The Art!
James W. Bailey
Experimental Mississippi Photographer
Michael O'Sullivan reviews Art-O-Matic
O'Sullivan once more demonstrates that he has a finger on the pulse of the DC art scene and does so well in this review of Artomatic in today's Washington Post.
O'Sullivan touches a chord that had escaped me, in answering the question to of why so many artists of all talents and aspirations do this show:
"Or maybe, just maybe, you did it because, for just this once, there wasn't anyone telling you that you couldn't."Bravo O'Sullivan!
Thinking About Art's Top 10 Artomatic List
JT over at Thinking About Art finally delivers his Top 10 Art-O-Matic list; he also makes a good point about most photography at the show.
Allison B. Miner
Rob Vander Zee
You read it here first
Glenn Dixon, the talented and opinionated writer who co-shared the "Galleries" column in the Washington Post (with Jessica Dawson) has quit because of an undisclosed dispute with the paper.
Canal Square Georgetown Openings Tonight
Tonight is the third Friday of the month, which means two things:
(a) It is the opening for the new shows of the five Canal Square Galleries in Georgetown. The galleries (Alla Rogers, Fraser, Parish, MOCA and Anne C. Fisher) will have their new shows and openings from 6-9PM. The openings are catered by the Sea Catch Restaurant and are free and open to the public.
(b) It will either rain, snow or one of those manhole covers will blow up in one of the nearby streets and the streets will be closed (this has happened three times in the last 18 months: each time on an opening night!)
See you there tonight!
And then tomorrow, join members of the "Girlz Club" at Artomatic for a tribute to Ana Mendieta.
"Girlz Club" members will make a silueta of pine cones and then paint leaves with a mixture of their blood and paint.
The tribute will on on Saturday, November 20th at Sunset on the grounds of Art-O-Matic. Follow the signs to the NW corner between the two big maple trees.
Artists to Meet on Monday
Marsha Stein's art project is getting a lot of attention and is being filmed for a potential "reality TV" series about art.
The next meeting for interested artists is at Fraser Gallery Bethesda on Monday, November 22 at 7pm.
Interested artists should contact Marsha Stein at Marshasart@aol.com.
New Gallery in Town
Galleryconnect is the new gallery space at 2103 O Street, NW in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. The gallery is currently showing "First Exposure," which is an exhibition curated by Lana Lyons, Director of the Studio Gallery.
The exhibition features Chandi Kelley and Rob Saccardi in their gallery debut. The show goes through December 19, 2004.