Don Bailey

Art on the move: responding to crises

ArtsWatch Weekly: The Black Lives Matter movement and the continuing coronavirus challenge are reshaping the arts world

WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF LIFE-CHANGING TIMES, and in the face of multiple crises remarkable work is being done. How do artists fit in? Sometimes, smack in the middle of things. Many news organizations have been doing excellent work of discovering the artists speaking to the moment and bringing their work to a broad audience. Oregon Public Broadcasting, for instance, has been publishing some sterling stories – including the feature The Faces of Protest: The Memorial Portraits of Artist Ameya Marie Okamoto, by Claudia Meza and John Nottariani. Okamoto, a young social practice artist who grew up in Portland, has made it her work not just to document the events of racial violence in Portland and across the United States: She’s also, as OPB notes, “crafted dozens of portraits for victims of violence and injustice.” 


Ameya Okamoto, “In Support of Protest.” Photo courtesy Ameya Okamoto

“People get so attached to the hashtag and the movement of George Floyd or Quanice Hayes,” Okamota tells OPB, “they forget that George Floyd was a trucker who moved to Minneapolis for a better life, or that Quanice Hayes was actually called ‘Moose’ by his friends and family. When individuals become catalysts for Black Lives Matter and catalysts for social change … there is a level of complex personhood that is stripped away from them.” In her work she strives to give that back.

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Accounts to follow: Irresistible colors

Don Bailey, Ernesto Aguilar, and Meghan NutMeg's Instagram accounts will fill your feed with color

This is the second in a series of stories about outstanding Oregon-based artists to follow on Instagram. The series focuses on accounts that are regularly updated with engaging content and high-quality images that allow followers to enjoy artwork regardless of location. Curated by the artists themselves, Instagram accounts offer a relaxed opportunity to view completed and in-progress artwork and to get a glimpse into the artists’ ideas, process, and studio practices.

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In his 1911 book Concerning the Spiritual in Art, painter Vasily Kandinsky wrote, “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” Kandinsky was attempting to craft a theory of art, a philosophical rumination that considered how formal elements—things like line, space, texture, and color—could create an expression that would resonate with viewers. Like so many before and after him, Kandinsky was trying to articulate something that we know intuitively: color engages not only our senses, but also our emotions.

The Instagram accounts of Meghan NutMeg, Ernesto Aguilar, and Don Bailey draw viewers in through their irresistible profusion of color.  We feel something looking at the expansive skies in NutMeg’s landscapes, the pulsing patterns of color in Aguilar’s digital abstractions, and the vibrant synergy between past and present in Don Bailey’s oil paintings. Across all three artistic practices, color creates movement and vitality that gives the work its emotive and expressive power.

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