Bailey Dooganhomethe artistcontactthe workretrospective

artist statement


For the past fifteen years, my painting and drawing has focused on the human body. Not "The Nude" or "The Figure", which are art forms. but the mutable body where flesh moves, changes and has infinite variety.

Our bodies are full of stories. They are detailed maps of our experiences. This corporeal topography of hair patterns, veins, scars, calluses, wrinkles and flesh (both smooth and crenulated) speak of a life lived.

Representations of the aging body, with some notable exceptions, have been largely excluded from the art canon. For the most part, the history of the body as naked subject has been the history of the body as seamless object. In addition to visuals, since language carries the weight of intellectual authority, text is often used to 'explain' the body. Much of my work explores that charged relationship between the world of discourse and the palpable world: the body and the words surrounding it.

Because of the highly articulated physical presence that I have wanted in my work, over the past fifteen years I have had to reteach myself to paint and draw. That learning process is ongoing. The paintings progress slowly; I build up and carve out the bodies with many layers of impasto and glaze.

The drawing process is subtractive. I initially apply many layers of gesso to the paper; then blacken the entire primed surface with charcoal. I draw with sandpaper to pull light areas from the dark, so that the bodies become luminous in the space: both receivers and emitters of light. As my visual acuity diminishes (detaching retinas, cataracts, etc.), my representation of the body has become more haptic or felt. While working, I feel that I'm literally crawling over the surface of the body—familiarity breeds redemption

The work is never finished. I keep returning, reconsidering, changing.

- Bailey Doogan (2005)

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