Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gould on galleries and emerging artists

The CP's Jessica Gould delivers another superb piece discussing the role of some galleries in helping to develop the young artist.

Read it here (Scroll down past the H Street stuff).

Bailey on Race, Art, Katrina, and Kirkland's One Word Project

This art blog has always been open for guest commentary and opinions. Below is a guest piece by the Rev. Bailey:

Church Burning by J.W. Bailey

"Church Burning" by The Right Reverend James W. Bailey

"Rough Edge Photography"

The underlying composite images of "Church Burning" were captured in 2002 in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.


“Church Burning” – An Artist Statement

The New Orleans back-story of “Church Burning” by James W. Bailey

In 2004, artist and art blogger J.T. Kirkland began a unique online art exploration titled the One Word Project. The idea was simple. Artists were invited to submit representative images of their work, along with a written statement, in response to a word selected for the artist by Kirkland. I was one of the first artists to participate in this wonderfully creative project. The word assigned to me by Kirkland was “Obligation.”

The text portion of my response to the word “Obligation” that I submitted as part of the online project (as well as for the print edition of the project that was published in 2006), along with my image “Church Burning”, explored the meaning of t he obligations that come with the word “freedom” as inspired by the recorded words (voices) of my great-uncle, a white farmer from Mississippi whose grandfather once owned salves, and a friend of my great uncle’s, a black farmer from the same county in Mississippi whose grandfather had once been a slave.

As part of my text response to this project, I incorporated quotes from both men that I recorded in the early 1980s while researching my family’s genealogy and history in the state of Mississippi. My original text response for the One Word Project was also developed into a separate online art blog titled, Southern Obligation, which can be read here.

I wrote a lot of words in 2004 as part of the text portion of my response to the word, "Obligation." Many of my words at the time were inspired by my growing disgust over the pathetic state of contemporary American race relations, a poisoned state of race relations that for years prior Katrina, and especially in places like New Orleans, has fostered among many an increasingly paranoid level of fear, or worse, among others, a state of total denial.

Without context, the image “Church Burning” and the words “Church Burning” both tend to incite controversy, especially in the Deep South where I was born and raised. The original point of my photograph and written words was to creatively employ the use of art in an effort to crack the thin veneer of politically correct reactionary talking head surface dialogue that manipulatively functions to superficially cover up the cancer of racism in America.

It is my belief that Americans today (black, white and brown), are extremely reluctant to voice what their real concerns and fears are about each other. Since the end of legal segregation, blacks and whites in places like Mississippi and New Orleans (places where I was born, raised and have lived and know like the back of my hand) have instead mutually chosen to speak around one another (not directly to or with one another) using culturally coded and veiled language that barely masks a plenitude of deep-seated unresolved hostilities and resentments. “Church Burning” was my artistic attempt at the time to break through this entrenched cultural barrier toward a new level of honest dialogue.

When viewing "Church Burning" today, I am reluctantly motivated to write tens of thousands of pages about what has happened to New Orleans and the hundreds of people, including many of my family members and friends, that I personally know whose lives have been torn asunder by Katrina. I say reluctantly motivated because I know that if I were to finish the ten of thousands of pages that I could easily writer that I wouldn't stop there, but continue on for millions of pages more.

Prior to Katrina, when I first participated in the online version of the One Word Project, I used to spend a lot of my free time thinking about everything under the sun, including such important things at the status of the dysfunctional state of American race relations. Artists are supposed to do that, right, to think about everything and how everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) impacts every other thing, right?

Well, I don’t do that level of thinking anymore. After Katrina, the condition of New Orleans is all that I think about. New Orleans is certainly the only thing that most of us from New Orleans think about these days. Honestly, and the truth be told, New Orleans is the only thing in this world we probably care about. Katrina is a living nightmare for those of us from New Orleans that will not let us sleep.

J.T. Kirkland, the curator of the One Word Project exhibition, offered all of the participating artists in this current version of the project an opportunity to submit a rebuttal to their original submission.

My updated post-Katrina rebuttal to the word “Obligation” follows:

A Rebuttal to the Word “Obligation” by James W. Bailey

B.K. Time...

If it is true that the condition of art can change the meaning of the world, then it is more than true that the condition of the world can change the meaning of art.

The image “Church Burning” was created in B.K. time. For those of you who are not native New Orleanians, B.K. time means Before Katrina. In B.K. time, “Church Burning” was an attempt to explore the mythology of a black church in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans that supposedly was firebombed by racists in the 1920s.

I became fascinated by this story after hearing about it from several different white people from New Orleans who never actually lived in the Lower Ninth Ward, but who were positive that the story they told was true. Their story was that the church had been burned by members of the Ku Klux Klan and that the church congregation rallied together and immediately rebuilt it following the arson attack.

However, no one that told me this story was exactly sure of the location of the church. At the time I researched the Times-Picayune newspaper archives at the New Orleans Public Library and could find no news reports that confirmed the story.

I then spent the better part of a week driving and walking through the Lower Ninth Ward in an effort to locate the site of this church. I talked with more than 100 African-Americans, all of whom were life-long residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, and asked all with whom I spoke what they knew about the story of this church.

No one I spoke with knew anything about a black church in the Lower Ninth Ward that had been fire bombed by the KKK in the 1920s.

An elderly African-American gentleman that I met did, however, tell me a story about a black church that he knew about that had burned in the 1940s that was rebuilt. His story was that the church burned as a result of an electrical fire caused by faulty wiring and that the fire had nothing to do with arson or the Klan. The church that he directed me to that is located in the Lower Ninth Ward is the same church featured in the underlying composite images of “Church Burning”.

A.K. Time...

We New Orleanians are now living in A.K. time, After Katrina, and the complex mythologies of my beloved New Orleans are unraveling.

In B.K. time all of us (white, black or brown) thought we were American citizens.

In A.K. time all of us (especially black and brown) discovered that we are nothing more than “refugees” within our own country.

In B.K. time we naively thought that Americans appreciated our city for being one of the greatest cultural assets of our country.

In A.K. time we watched in stunned horror as America cynically allowed the cultural heart of its greatest city to drown and be destroyed.

The one thing that has held the faith of New Orleanians bound together against a challenging history of experiencing nearly 200 years of one disaster (natural or man-made) after another is the deep cultural investment we have made in connecting our lives and souls to the spiritual. No matter how horrible our situation, many in New Orleans have for generations sought solace and comfort in their neighborhood churches.

It is now two years after Katrina and more than 1,500 storm-damaged churches in New Orleans have yet to fully recover.

But let there be no myth-making about the truth of what ripped the spiritual life of New Orleans apart: The federal government of the United States of American authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a levee system that would withstand a direct hit of a Category 3 storm. The levees that collapsed during Katrina and destroyed 85% of New Orleans failed under Category 1 storm conditions as measured at the levee failure point of the 17th Street Canal in the city.

New Orleans was destroyed as a result of the greatest civil engineering failure in American history, a failure that was paid for by the United States taxpayers. More than 1,000 New Orleanians died because of the failure of the government of the United States of America to adequately protect American lives.

The word assigned to me for the One Word Project was “Obligation”.

In B.K. time I responded.

In A.K. time, I and my fellow New Orleanians continue to demand that the government that destroyed the heart and soul of our beautiful city rebuild it.

The United States government has an Obligation with no restrictive, delimiting or defining quote marks to do so. If America has the money to destroy Iraq in an effort to build a supposedly better and more democratic country, then America has more than enough money to fix New Orleans, America’s greatest city, and to fix it now.







The Arts Club of Washington is pleased to present The One Word Project, a group exhibition that is the capstone of a three-year exploration of the triangular dialogue between artist, work, and viewer. This exhibition will feature more than 30 artists, including Reston-based artist/photographer, James W. Bailey, a native of New Orleans whose award-winning signature style of slash-and-burn black and white film photography, better known as “Rough Edge Photography”, has garnered much critical acclaim during the past few years.


The One Word Project exhibition is curated by Reston-based artist and art blogger, J.T. Kirland. This project originated in 2004 as an online venue featuring artists, their work and their written statements, that was first published on Kirkland’s art blog, Thinking About Art . In 2006, the One Word Project was published as a print book that featured many of the online artist participants.


The One Word Project exhibition runs from August 28 to September 29. An opening reception will be held on Friday, September 7 from 6:30-9:00pm. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Normal gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, from 10:00am - 5:00pm, and Saturday from 10:00am - 2:00pm.


The Arts Club of Washington is located at 2017 I Street, NW Washington, DC 20006. Visit their web site at for directions and more information.

About the One Word Project Exhibition:

Begun in 2004 as an online forum for stimulating artists to speak freely about their work, The One Word Project is a deliberate enactment of the 'conversation' between artist and viewer. Interested in seeking new ways to capture pure creative response, curator J.T. Kirkland distilled the traditional artist interview to its most basic element: a single word. After digesting the work of a self-selecting group of artists, Kirkland prompted each with a word of his choosing, to which each artist was asked to respond in approximately100–500 words. The resulting statements—which vary in length, approach, and relevance to the original word—offer a written correlative that informs and enhances the viewer's appreciation of the artist's work.

For Kirkland, the process of making art is as valuable and interesting as the work itself. The One Word Project reveals a fascination with the translation from artist mind to realized art object. The single word prompt minimizes the polluting influence of the viewer's agenda; spurred by an intentionally open-ended stimulus, the resulting self-articulation offers unfiltered insights into process.

In 2006, the work and words of The One Word Project artists were collected in a full-color art book of the same title. The current exhibition represents the natural conclusion of this three-year arc. Each piece is accompanied by Kirkland's word and the artists' response, offering a rare glimpse into the mind of the artist by both visual and verbal avenues. Viewers are encouraged to add their own impressions to the 'conversation'.

The exhibition features work by:

James W. Bailey (VA)
Rachael Baldanza (NY)
Joseph Barbaccia (VA)
Gregg Chadwick (CA)
J. Coleman (DC)
Anna Conti (CA)
Warren Craghead III (VA)
Rosetta DeBerardinis (MD)
Greg Ferrand (DC)
D. Keith Furon (CA)
Matt Hollis (DC)
Candace Keegan (MD)
Angela Kleis (DC)
Tara Krause (CA)
Andrew Krieger (DC)
Prescott Moore Lassman (DC)
James Leonard (NY)
Nathan Manuel (DC)
Jennifer McMackon (Ontario, Canada)
Jennifer Miller (DC)
A.B. Miner (DC)
Charles Neenan (VA)
Peter Reginato (NY)
Jose Ruiz (NY)
Wayne Schoenfeld (CA)
Kathleen Shafer (DC)
Alexandra Silverthorne (DC)
Marsha Stein (MD)
Trish Tillman (NY)
Kelly Towles (DC)
Bryan Whitson (DC)
Jamie Wimberly (DC).