Robert Leroy Bailey
While growing up during the dust bowl, his mother encouraged his creativity and nurtured his artful nature and sense of arrangement. His mechanical aptitudes came from working on a farm fixing equipment with his father.
From playing trombone, to painting, Bailey was an artful individual at a very young age. He recalls; “I made carvings from the clay banks near my home and won a prize at the county fair for an adobe house I built as a young boy.”
Bailey attended grade school at the Dodge City Kansas Air Force Base at the turn of the war. He moved back to Hutchinson after his mother’s death and lived with his aunt and uncle until he completed high school.
During Bailey’s senior year of high school, he took flying lessons through a group called “the flying farmers”. This group believed that the younger generation should know how to fly in order to help their older counterparts obtain necessary farming equipment. After graduating high school, Bailey used his skills to join the U.S. Air Force. Bailey received one of the highest mathematical test scores and was quickly accepted into the Air Force because of his exceptional grade and prior flying experience. He was one of the youngest men granted to serve.
World War II
When Bailey entered the service, he did such things as the painting nose art on World War II aircraft. He was posted with India’s transport command from 1943 to 1946. He traveled from Long Beach to Australia to Bombay to Karachi (Pakistan) then to Deli, India and Agra. He worked as a belly gunner until he was grounded because of high blood pressure.
Unable to go to continue his term in Europe, Bailey worked as a mechanic on bomb planes. The technological aspects of his job opened his mind to the future of computers (which later became an integral part of his artistic development). His creative nature ensued in India as he designed and executed stage backdrops and props for a Hindu religious celebration honoring the god Vishnu and he later completed the design of an Air Force chapel in Assam.
Bailey moved to Chicago after the war and was admitted into The Art Institute of Chicago. After living at the YMCA for two months, he rented a studio on the fourth floor above a Chinese restaurant. In 1951, he received his Bachelor of Arts in design, painting and sculpture. Bailey further supplemented his art with an academic education in abnormal psychology, obtained in 1951 from The University of Chicago. While obtaining this second degree, he worked at night as an overhead crane operator in the steel mills. Then in 1956-157, he attended the Ox-Bow Summer School of Painting taking photographs of the atmosphere surrounding him (many of these pictures were used for their 1962 informational folder).
Bailey lived in Chicago for 20 years, moving from his 700 North State Street loft (where he did stage design for Minsky’s Burlesque house downstairs, inviting local talent to pose nude for his paintings between the dancer’s sets) to a storefront on Lincoln and North Halstead in the 1960s.
The 1950s and 1960s are known as his most prolific artistic period. It was during these decades that he became well known for his photography and sculpture. As Vice President of the Chicago Society of Artists, Bailey designed and built the gallery (Chicago Society of Artists on 2256 N. Orchard & Lincoln Street, Chicago, 60614). The gallery was intended to display paintings and sculpture. It was created to showcase one-man or group shows and the group’s annual exhibitions. In the late 1950s, it unfortunately caught fire and was permanently closed. Getting back on the horse in 1957, Bailey helped organize Exhibit “A”, a group of 24 local artists. He and his cohorts (Edna Arnow, Donald Schweikert, Angelo Testa, Victor Perlmutter, Bruno Bak and Morris Barazani) ran exhibits in Chicago.
In 1959, Bailey left with a grant from the Mexican government for six months to capture imagery of Mayan children, villages and schools. The images he captured resulted in a black-and-white photographic exhibition in Mexico City (this photography is now part of the Smithsonian Collection). In 1963, Bailey reached his highest honor after receiving the International Design Award for his sculpture.
After continuing his run of painting and sculpture, Bailey moved in 1970 to his Wood Dale Studio (built from the sale of his friend, Alice Mason’s, old farm) where he lived with Alice and her husband (443 North Grove Ave., Box 277 Wood Dale, Illinois). Bailey knew Alice from when she was the head of the Chicago Society of Artists.
A year later, Bailey moved to a 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) studio on Huron River Drive in Michigan and later to a loft over a theater in Dexter (on Baker and Main) where he mainly worked with Photography. In July 1993, he experienced his first stroke which slowed him only briefly before continuing back to his art driven lifestyle.
Bailey’s last residence before moving to the VA Hospital was a small apartment he lived in above a dance studio in Dexter Michigan. It was there, that I was introduced to the artist, from 1999 to 2000 as he frequently came to visit my boss, Glenn, at the furniture shop behind the main street where I used to apprentice. :"I recall visiting Bob’s tightly cramped living space stocked with paintings covering the walls and a tiny kitchenette area off to the right. Sculptures ranging from clay to cardboard encased the room while flat surfaces were consumed with his latest computer drawings. The only uncluttered space was a small open spot on his desk for his computer mouse to reside and a small area on his bed for him to recuperate between artistic bursts".-Kris. Spitale, 2007.
In 2004 after another stroke, Bailey moved into the VA Hospital in Grand Rapids where he has lived for the past four years. During his residence, he has used whatever media he can latch onto. Occasionally it has been paper or canvas but more recently he has been transferring older computer drawings onto the sides of ceramic plates and vases and painting new creations using glaze. Although he is not as mobile with his art, at the age of 85 after three strokes, his creativity still imbues.
Bailey’s latest one-man show in July 2008 at Eastern Michigan University’s Ford Gallery captures the gamut of his life as an artist. The show reflects his early drawings and proceeds to encapsulate his artistic career from his life in Chicago to his more recent computer graphic art prints and painted ceramic pieces.
Bailey’s background in art has included drawing, sculpture, computer art, poetry, painting, wall relief, lithography, silk screening, photography, creative writing, stage design, mask making and mural and ceramic painting. His academic studies in philosophy and psychology help culminate an art experience to be enjoyed by both artists and scholars.
Bailey has been using computers to create paintings and graphics since 1983, first using the Apple 2 e and a dot matrix printer and then later upgrading to color ribbons for an enhanced vivid output. He currently uses an apple G5 laptop and prints with color ink.
Changing from Mac to IBM and back to a Mac, going from dot matrix to laser prints, his art using the keyboard and mouse with new print media has greatly changed his work. Bailey believes that he has always been moving into the 21st century knowing it is only the beginning of the way artists will express themselves into interpreting the future of art.
His archives are held at the Chicago Public Library.
Indicated below is a chronology of Bob Bailey's life along with some of his achievements, gallery exhibits and other artistic career success.
- • Born on July 20, 1923 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
- • In the U.S. Army Air Corps (now referred to as the U.S. Air Force) from 1943 to 1946 (spending more than 21⁄2 yrs in India designing and executing stage backdrops and props for a Hindu religious celebration honoring the God Vishnu and completed the designs for a chapel for the service in Assam, India).
- • Attended the Art Institute of Chicago 1946–1951 (B.A. in 1951).
- • Attended the University of Chicago 1947–1951.
- • Designed masks and stage settings for the Cuban Village, 1949.
- • Show at Forester’s Almo on North State, Chicago, 1949.
- • Exhibit at “Cromer and Quint” gallery, 1955.
- • Exhibited with the Chicago Society of Artists since, 1955.
- • American Airlines window for Christmas, Chicago, 1955.
- • T.V. show of work on Channel 9 WGN-TV, 1956.
- • Momentum Show, 1956.
- • Nippersink, Wisconsin, 1956.
- • Attended the Summer School of Painting in Saugatuck, Michigan 1956–1957.
- • Wayne, Indiana, 1956, 1957.
- • Exhibited at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 1957.
- • One sculpture selected by the Decorators of Chicago for a show at John A. Colby and Sons, 1957.
- • Helped organize Exhibit “A” a group of 24 local artists. In 1957 seven gallery members (including Robert Bailey, Edna Arnow, Donald Schweikert, Angelo Testa, Victor Perlmutter, Bruno Bak, and Morris Barazani) ran exhibits. The cooperative only operated from 1957 to 1959 showing mostly members’ work, it closed permanently when the gallery floor caved in during and opening.
- • The University of Chicago, 1958.
- • Had a painting at Evanston Township High School, 1958.
- • Had a photography show at Evanston Township High School, 1959.
- • Had a photography show at Riccardo’s Restaurant, 1959.
- • Photographed for six months in Mexico in 1959 with a grant from the Mexican govt. – taking pictures of Mayan children, villages and schools – resulted in a major show in Mexico City.
- • Michigan Avenue windows of Bonwit Teller, Chicago, 1961.
- • Hunterdon Count Art Center, New Jersey, 1963.
- • He was included in the 9th edition of the International Arts Directory.
- • Hunterdon Count Art Center, New Jersey, 1963.
- • Received the International Design Award in 1963, for sculpture, "Carne Blanca."
- • Chicago Midwest Cultural Show, photography, 1963–1965.
- • National Arts Club of New York, 1965.
- • Sculpture show at Chicago Public Library Branch, 939 W. Fullerton, 1966.
- • Print show at Mid-North Gallery, 1966.
- • Work at the American Embassy in Singapore in 1967, 1968, & 1969.
- • CSA – Chicago Society of Artists 1-man show (2256 N. Orchard), March 1968.
- • 12th National Print Exhibition, Hunterdon County Art Center, Clinton, N.J., 1968.
- • State museum of New Jersey in Trenton, 1968.
- • Published in the International Arts Directory, 9th edition, 1968.
- • Morgan Park Academy, Chicago, May 1968.
- • State Museum of New Jersey in Trenton, July-Aug., 1968.
- • Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center, Chicago, 1969 & 1970.
- • Bergen Community Museum, Paramus, New Jersey, 1970.
- • Morris Museum of Arts and Sciences, Morristown, New Jersey, 1970
- • Show at Blackhawk Restaurant (Mexican Photography & art) July-Aug,, 1970.
- • Hung in Wood Dale Admin. building, Wood Dale, Illinois October 1 – November 11, 1970.
- • Work displayed in J. Walter Thompson Company, John Hancock Building, Chicago, August–September 1970.
- • St. Alexius Hospital, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, 1970 & 1971.
- • Old Town Art Center, Chicago; Chicago Society of Artists print, drawing and watercolor show March 7-March 31, 1971.
- • Hunterdon County Art Center, NJ., March 28 to May 10, 1971.
- • Monroe Gallery, Chicago, IL. Chicago Society of Artists, Inc. April 6-April 30, 1971
- • Public Library of Newark, New Jersey, Art and Music dept. June 1971.
- • Cultural Center of Ocean City, New Jersey, July 1971.
- • Old Town Triangle Center, Chicago, Illinois, 1971.
- • Hunterdon Art Center, Clinton, New Jersey, 1971.
- • Public Library of Newark, New Jersey, Cultural Center of Ocean City, 1971.
- • Monroe Gallery, Chicago, 1971.
- • University Club of Chicago, 1971.
- • The Village Art Gallery, Pentwater, Michigan, 1970 & 1972.
- • Juliann Studios, River Forest, Illinois, 1971 & 1972.
- • Continental Can Company, Inc., Chicago, 1972.
- • Federal Court Building, Chicago, 1972.
- • Moved to Dexter Michigan in November 1972.
- • Rackham Gallery University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1974.
- • Ann Arbor Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1974.
- • V.A. Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1974 & 1975.
- • City Hall Show, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1975.
- • American Embassy in Singapore, 1967–1969.
- • 1980, 1981 National Museum of American Art housed the work of his “Charcoal nude and face”. His “Untitled (Seated Nude)” a pencil and charcoal drawing exists in the National Gallery of Art (part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.)
- • Vice President of the Chicago Society of Artists and a member of the board of directors for many years.
- • 1989 large paintings of his hung in the Dexter Senior Center.
- • 1989 he did workshops with the Dexter School System.
- • 1989 Dexter Senior Center gave three silkscreen prints to Soviet guests; Natalia Rossomagnia, Anatasia Platnitskaya and Evgeney Subbotin.
- • 1989–1990 Ann Arbor Artists Co-op at north main Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- • Ann Arbor Co-op roving gallery exhibits (Espresso Royale, Steve’s Ice Cream, The Park Avenue Deli, The Amadeus Café and the Cutting Class Salon).
- • In 1991, he was represented by the Clara Kott von Storch Gallery, Dexter, MI.
- • In 1991, he also juried for Clara Kott von Storch Gallery for a National Show.
- • Washtenaw Community College in Ypsilanti, Michigan; exhibit, January 1991
- • In 1992, a school in Dexter had a showing of his pottery in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- • In 1993 he juried the National show for the Clara Kott von Storch Gallery.
- • In 1993, Virginia Wesleyan College had a one-man show for Bailey.
- • In 1993, Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk Virginia Beach, Virginia acquired one of the largest collections of his work (including Pork Chop Symphony).
- • In July and August 1993, he had a show at the Mendocino Art Center in Mendocino, California.
- • In November 1993, he was part of the Ibe Nab Show at the Clara Kott von Storch Gallery in Dexter, Michigan.
- • In January 1994, he was one of five artists in the Washtenaw Community College Exhibit Hall, Ypsilanti, Michigan.
- • From 1999 to 2004, he did some workshops and had works hanging in the Dexter Senior Center in Dexter, Michigan.
- • Resides in the V.A. Hospital, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2004–2008
- • Eastern Michigan University, Ford Gallery Show. July 14 – 25th, 2008, closing reception with the artist from 5 to 8 p.m.
Other Shows (Dates Unknown):
- • National Design Center at Marina City, Chicago.
- • Mandel Brothers Art Exhibition Galleries, Chicago
- • Evanston Art Center, Evanston Ill.
- • Latin School, Chicago
- • Cordon Club Chicago
- • Jewish Education Building Gallery, Chicago
- • Prints in the Chicago Society of Artist Calendar – yearly
- • McCormick Place Art Gallery, Chicago
- • The Monroe Gallery, Chicago
- • University Club of Chicago
- • Covenant Club Gallery of Chicago
Past Major Public Collections
- • Playboy, 1958.
- • Illinois Bell Telephone, 1966 & 1970.
- • Blue Cross of Chicago, Illinois, 1970.
Past Private Collections
- • Chicago’s Hancock Building
- • New York
- • California
- • Dexter, Michigan
- • Southfield, Michigan
- • Grosse Point, Michigan
- • Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
- • Canton, Michigan
- • Virginia Wesleyan College
- • “The Little Gingerbread House”
- • Russia
- • Embassy in Singapore
- • American Embassy Collection
- • Playboy art collection
- • Hilton Hotel art collection
Exhibits and Shows
- • Forester’s St. Almo on North State, 1949
- • Cromer and Quint Galleries, 1955
- • Mandel Brothers Art Gallery
- • Evanston Art Center
- • Latin School
- • Cordon Club
- • Todros Geller Gallery
- • Momentum Show, 1956
- • Shows in Nippersink, WI, 1956
- • T.V. show of works on Channel 9 WGN-T.V, 1956
- • Wayne Indiana, 1956 & 1957
- • McCormick Place Gallery
- • National Design Center at Marina City
- • The Monroe Club
- • Evanston Township High School – Photography, 1959
- • Riccardo’s Restaurant Gallery – Photography, 1959
- • 1962 Photographs taken of weekend activities at Ox-Bow Summer School of Painting were used in their 1962 publication
- • 1963 received the International Design Award for sculpture for "Carne Blanca"
- • National Arts Club, New York, 1965
- • The University Club of Chicago
- • Chicago Midwest Cultural Show – Photography, 1963–1965
- • Chicago Public Library Branch, 939 West Fullerton, 1966
- • Mid-North Gallery – print show, 1966
- • Chicago Society of Artists Gallery, 1968
- • 12th National Print Exhibition, Hunterdon County Art Center, Clinton New Jersey, 1968
- • State Museum of New Jersey in Trenton, 1968
- • Morgan Park Academy, 1968
- • American Embassy in Singapore, 1967–1969
- • Cultural Center of Ocean City NJ, 1969
- • Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center, Chicago, 1969 &1970
- • Old Town Art Center, 1969, 1970 & 1971
- • Blackhawk Restaurant, 139 N. Wabash, Chicago, Illinois, July – August 20, 1970
- • Bergen Community Museum in Paramus, NJ, 1970
- • Morris Museum of Arts and Sciences, Morristown, NJ, 1970
- • St. Alexius Hospital, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, 1970 & 1971
- • J. Walter Thompson Company, John Hancock Building, Chicago, 1970
- • Wood Dale Administration Building, Wood Dale, Illinois, 1970
- • Covenant Club Gallery of Chicago
- • Public Library of Newark, NJ. 1969 & 1971
- • Hunterdon County Art Center, New Jersey, 1970 & 1971
- • The Village Art Gallery, Pentwater, MI. 1970 & 1972
- • Juliann Studios, River Forest, Illinois 1971 & 1972
- • Continental Can Company, Inc. 1972
- • Federal Court Building, Chicago, 1972
- • Rackham Gallery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1974
- • Ann Arbor Library, Ann Arbor, MI, 1974
- • V.A. Hospital, Ann Arbor, 1974 & 1975
- • City Hall Show, Ann Arbor, MI, 1975
- • Donated the painting, “The Bug Machine” to Bates Elementary school in Dexter, MI. 1989, later in 1996 it was donated to Virginia Wesleyan College.
- • Presented an art workshop as part of the 3rd annual “Artists in Action” day at Bates Elementary school on Thursday, May 17, 1990
- • Donated a contemporary oil painting to a Silent Auction in Dexter, MI.,1990
- • Washtenaw Community College show in January 1991.
- • In January 1994 he was one of five artists in the Washtenaw Community College Exhibit Hall, Ypsilanti, MI.
- • In 2000s (decade) he had his 1958 Negatives of Mayan pictures accepted by the Smithsonian.
- • Exclusive show at Eastern Michigan University’s Ford Gallery, July 2008.
- • Works has been displayed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
- • He is listed in the International Art Directory.
Robert Bailey has an exclusive art exhibit at Eastern Michigan University's Ford Gallery in Ypsilanti Michigan which runs from July 14- July 25, 2008.
The artist recently celebrated his 85th birthday and is still working as an active artist in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
This information was gathered through interviews and stories directly with artist and friends and family of the artist.
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