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Meet John William Bailly

Today we’d like to introduce you to John William Bailly.

John William, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My oil paintings and drawings are an attempt to find my cultural and historic identity. I am lacking a firm geographic foundation, yet I find this nomadic existence motivational.

My father is French and my mother is American, but I was born in the United Kingdom. As a young boy living in Paris, my family took me on extended travels to enchanting lands: the Amazon, Turkey, Morocco, Devil’s Island and other small islands in the Atlantic. Interests in the diversity of world cultures and the enjoyment of a transient existence led me to have a profound connection with art and travel. After earning my BFA from FIU in Miami, I became a stock boy working minimum wage at an art supply store.

A pivotal moment came when I decided to break the stagnation of my life and aspire to something grander and more challenging. I applied and was accepted to Yale for an MFA in Painting and Printmaking. I honestly went from working for the minimum wage to the Ivy League.

This drive to explore the unknown and a desire to constantly challenge myself has enabled me to structure the life I now have. I am an Artist-in-Residence at the Deering Estate in Miami, represented by LnS Gallery in Coconut Grove, and a Professor at the FIU Honors College. I am the Faculty Director of France, Italy, and Spain study abroad and split my life between Miami and Europe. I snorkel in Miami, teach in Europe, and paint everywhere.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This is my perspective and my experience. The career of an artist is not one centered on commercial success. An artist must have a unique voice, and the journey of the artist is to find, develop, and evaluate that voice. There are many failed artists that have abundant commercial success, and there are fantastic artists that struggle financially. The greatest challenge we face is to retain the integrity of our artistic voice, even in difficult times. There are long stretches without sales. There are negative reviews. There are rejections. I respect artists that make art that arises from their lives, that reflects their experience. I aspire and often fail, in honoring that. But I persist.

Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
The Roses of Fibonacci, my upcoming exhibition at LnS Gallery on 16 November 2019, will reflect on the Transatlantic Exchange, exploring the history of the Americas and Europe through mathematics, mythology, and nature. As a French-American simultaneously living in both hemispheres, questions of cultural identity and the inevitability of rebirth through conflict are central in my paintings. From which cultural molds are we forged? Are our transformations predetermined, yet hidden from us? Are our cultural norms seemingly random but in truth simply the sum of previous events, as the numbers in Fibonacci’s sequence are? Is math discovered or invented? Is culture discovered or invented? I reflect upon these questions in large oil paintings that comprise formulas, patterns, figures, flowers, mangroves, maps and a palette born of the Miami Blue of sky and ocean.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Miami is a fantastic and terrible city for the arts. The absolute treasures of the private collections of contemporary art in Miami are internationally recognized. We are able to discover the most innovative and compelling art of today at collections such as the Margulies Warehouse and Rubell Family Collection, as well as the Perez Art Museum Miami. And our street culture is rich, diverse, and thriving. I love us. Miamians are in the very present which enables us to participate in the future. However, an understanding of our past is severely lacking in Miami. We do not preserve nor do we examine our roots. HistoryMiami and the Deering Estate aim to preserve our Tequesta past, but very little outside of this is done. We Miamians know not who we are, and a people without history do not have a strong sense of community. Yet this vacuum is also positive, as it enables us to grasp that cultural liberty to forge a new, hybrid identity with diverse roots that are all valued equally. Miami can only be compared to Miami, and that is the magic of this land and of the wonderful, crazy people that form it.

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Image Credit:
Lily Fonte

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