Painted canvas fabric entwined upon its wooden frame, colorful large scale sculptures and murals, watercolors and landscapes…this eye appealing mix of work is all courtesy of artist, Beth Bailis.
Visual artist in New York City, Beth Bailis is arguably most recognized for her Fusion Paintings, which incorporate ceramic abstract shapes into the painting surface, using other found objects and elements, thereby creating a relief effect. Beth currently exhibits her Fusion Paintings–and other works–in numerous galleries and museums in the NYC area. A graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art, and City University of New York, Beth is also on the Fine Arts faculty of St. John’s University, Pratt Institute, the 63rd Street YMCA, and Queens Library. She is also an officer of the National Society of Mural Painters. Her work is also part of numerous public and private collections. Currently, Beth is showing her Fusion Installation, “European Triptych”, at the Unison Sculpture Garden in New Paltz, NY. She recently completed murals on Roosevelt Island, and exhibits in a two-person show at the Players Theatre in Greenwich Village, both in New York City.
Aside from being a visual artist, Beth is also an actress who has a BA degree in theatre from the Davis Center for Performing Arts, CCNY and has performed at numerous venues, including Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, The Kitchen, PS 122, Museum of the Moving Image, DIA Center for the Arts, in NYC, Queens Theatre in the Park, and Theatre for the New City, in which Beth was mentioned in the New York Times theatre review. As a member of the LaGuardia Theatre Ensemble, she has performed the titles roles in Medea, The Cherry Orchard, Elektra and others. Beth is also assistant director of the InterMedia Ensemble, a group that specializes in the performance of Color Music.
Recently, Beth spoke to the Examiner by phone about her experiences as an artist; a lifestyle she was born into and subsequently grew up with. Her mother was an artist, and her brother still does art, making her transition into a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art, followed by an MFA degree at CUNY natural. Constantly inspired by the sights and sounds of the world around her, Beth believes that it is possible to see beauty in the most simple things, such as how sunlight looks on a particular street, and therefore, she has always painted landscapes alongside her abstractions.
“My artistic influences are very broad,” she admits. “I love the work of Bonnard and Matisse, which inspire my use of color, and I’m a fan of both Impressionist and Renaissance work–the form, balance, scale and light in those works are incredible.” She also really likes Picasso’s and Cezanne’s painting because of their use of value, the difference between light and dark. “As artists we have a wealth of knowledge about past artists and their visions, but in the end we have to find our own voice.”
Although she has a great many works in several mediums, Beth’s artistic voice generally surrounds her Fusion Paintings, which incorporate three dimensional elements into the canvas. “When I was in graduate school I took the ceramics class and made a lot of abstract shapes just to see if I could find a way to combine them with my paintings,” Beth explained. “Along the way, I started experimenting with other ideas, such as adding wood and metal to the canvas, or even twisting canvas fabric around the frame. I let the shapes and colors tell me what to make and the results are usually very revelatory.”
Artistically, Beth consistently aims to use as many different mediums as possible. She has created paintings out of acrylic, oil and watercolor and made sculptures from clay, wood and metal. In fact, she has large scale sculptures on public display in upstate New York and New Jersey. “Film is one medium I haven’t utilized with my painting yet, but hope to soon,” Beth stated. She has however, worked with projections and video with the InterMedia Ensemble as a performer.
When asked about her experiences working on her large scale sculptures, Beth was quick to note that painting is painting, whether on a small canvas or a big sculpture, the process is quite similar. One of her large sculptures, “House of Cards” was accepted into a Leonia Sculpture Garden because of artistic connections and committee approval; other works have been chosen through proposals, or her involvement with artistic organizations.
Beth created masks as a metaphor for why artists create art. Moreover, she is teaching a workshop in collaboration with the Sculptors Alliance focused on the medium. “Masks are what artists do. One makes art to either disguise oneself or expose oneself,” Beth explained. “Masks are also part painting and part sculpture, so they are similar to my other work. I find them intriguing because they are inherently self-portraits.” As was quoted in “Moby Dick”, by Herman Melville:
“Hark ye yet again–the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event–in the living act, the undoubted deed–there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask! If man will strike, strike through the mask!”
In addition to teaching the mask making class, Beth will be showing work at various libraries and galleries in NYC throughout 2016. “So far the most rewarding part of being an artist is having the ability to be inspired by everyday life,” Beth explained. “Although my work is abstract, it all comes from my experiences and observations. Even though I don’t have a favorite piece of work- “Bound by Desire” is special, because it was a breakthrough Fusion Painting and represents a new plateau of ideas, in which I released the canvas from its rectilinear frame. All my work is a reflection of myself and my life.” Ten years from now, Beth Bailis intends to still be making art and gaining more recognition for her efforts. She also plans to continue working in theater. “As long as I’m still creating, I’ll be satisfied.”
When questioned about what advice she would give to aspiring artists, Beth suggested working on their art every single day, and refusing to let family and friends place doubt. “People will try to discourage you from becoming an artist because it’s hard work,” Beth explained, “but there’s nothing else I’d rather do, aside from acting, which is an artistic endeavor in of itself.” She also suggests visiting many museums and galleries, and joining artist groups and organizations. Also pick up a gallery guide; then find what gallery you like, and when you have a large body of work, and create a style that is unique, start trying to show it.
2016 promises to be a busy year for Beth, who has a show pending with the Cohen Library at City College and the Langston Hughes Library in Queens. At present, she is Artist of the Month at the 125th Street Library, New York Public Library, and her show, titled “Abstract Paintings and Constructions”, is on display there throughout January 2016.
To learn more about Beth Bailis, see here and here. Also visit the Westside YMCA Facebook to see samples of her work on public display.