01:01 - Frances Bagley discusses her long career as a key figure in the Dallas arts community. Frances is in the collections of The Dallas Museum of Art and the National Museum of Women in Washington, D.C., but is probably best known for contributions to corporate collections and public arts commissions nationwide.
60:09 - The week’s top art headlines.
Craig: [00:00:09] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with sculptor Frances Bagley about her long career as a key figure in the Dallas arts community. Frances is in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art in the National Museum of Women in Washington, DC, among others, but is probably best known for contributions to corporate collections and public art commissions nationwide at the end of the episode. I'll be taking a look at some of the week's top art headlines. But first up, the pursuit of 3-D form with Frances Bagley. Craig: [00:01:00] Frances, I really appreciate you being willing to sit down on a Saturday morning and talk about your your life's work and so you're not originally from Texas.Show More >
Frances: [00:01:12] No, I'm not originally from Texas. It's a matter of fact I grew up in Tennessee, but between Tennessee and Texas, I lived a lot of places, including England and Arizona and San Francisco and Georgia. Brief time in Illinois. So I actually, you know, have had an experience in in a broad section of places to live. But I've stayed in Texas by far the longest, and it's one of those decisions that I didn't think I was making. But I realized I had because when I first came to Texas, I thought, Well, this is going to be a couple of years and you know, now it's probably been over 30 easy, right? And but I will say, I think actually Dallas has served me well and I feel a real strong commitment to this art community and have worked for the community, especially in years past. I ran the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Public Art Program. Early on, I was the developer of it and then I taught in several of the universities here and have really put roots down. I feel like there's something about the Dallas and the Texas, but Dallas, specifically art community. This is I don't know if nurturing is the right word, but it seems you and many people who lived here and moved away say that's what they miss the most. Is the support from the other artist, right? There's not a real strong sense of competition among artists in Dallas. It's much more about pat you on the back and what can we do to help? Sure, which has been something that I've fed off of and contributed to through my career. So Tom and I are kind of like Safeway, where there was some anchor tenant who's been in this town a long time and I have been involved in very pivotal, pivotal moments in the development of the community. Craig: [00:03:40] You know, you talk about the DART public art program. We look back, say, 40 years ago what the state of public arts would have looked like in Dallas in terms of just driving around and seeing public art. Frances: [00:03:54] It was zero, except for some of the donations that the city had accepted. So when public art began to be an item, an issue in our country, I'm trying to see if I can conjure up the the dates. Probably late eighties Dallas embraced it and they brought in people from Seattle and Seattle was the premiere example of public the development of public art earlier on. And so people were brought in from Seattle to give seminars to artists in Dallas to talk about how to think about trying public art. It was really valuable because Jerry Allen was one of the main people and he gave us lectures on You have to respect yourself. You have to know that your time is worth money, right? And that and that's the way one of the the foundations of approaching this sort of endeavor. But then when Dallas did develop a percent for art program, I was on the first committee with Nancy Nasher to develop that the way Dallas Ordinance for Public Art was written. So I was totally on the ground floor of Dallas Public Art Development. And then when DART needed a public art program, they chose me to develop it. And I did all the planning and developing of how it would be run and then actually ran it for five years while they developed their starter line. Wow. So that was a great experience for me and I. I've often worn two hats because I also ran public art programs for. For projects, for various other municipalities and and yet I really am the one that wants to be making the art, so I don't do that anymore, but I certainly know what both sides of that process are and allows me to to be able to handle the bureaucracy a lot better than some artists can. Craig: [00:06:26] So you you grew up in Tennessee. You you didn't go to college in Tennessee. You? Frances: [00:06:32] Well, I did go to the University of Tennessee for a few years and then realized that I needed adventure because I come from a very rooted Tennessee family that I wasn't getting away from. And at the University of Tennessee, right? And I realized I wanted to be on my own. And so one summer, when I came home from college, I thought, How am I going to get out of here? And I found this ad for ranch camp in Arizona that turned out to be a very illustrious place. But I wrote them a letter and they flew me to Atlanta to interview me. And I turns out I was the only person they had ever hired at that point who didn't have a connection, an inside connection. So the ranch camp is called Orme Ranch, and it still exists. And it it had, you know, it's a school year round, but in the summer they bring in, you know, kids a very, very important wealthy people go there to have the ranch experience, to learn horseback riding and arts and crafts and be on this 40 acre operating cattle ranch and and and actually, you know, have jobs, collect eggs or groom the horses or whatever. So having grown up on a farm, it was perfect for me. And so I did that for two years, I think. But I stayed in close contact with them longer two summers. But all it took was that very first summer and I was ready to move to Arizona. Craig: [00:08:20] Sure. So what do you think it was that that made you that first person that wasn't part of the nepotism? Like what? What set you apart? Was it growing up on a farm? Frances: [00:08:30] Well, this is a I guess it maybe might illustrate it. My mother was, as they called her a Yankee. My Tennessee family was not and deep rooted family. And as a matter of fact, when I first went to University of Tennessee, my roommate's mother called my mother to introduce herself and call back and said, Oh my god, Frances, mother is a Yankee. So I was never. I was always what they would call the half breed in a way, you know, I had a lot of. And furthermore, my mother and father both went to University of Michigan. My father, although his family was deep rooted, had had lived all over as well because my grandfather was in the military. So, so my immediate family was always a bit rebellious and and different than some of the rest of the family. So I had it. I had an experience with that. We spent all our summers in my grandparents summer home in Canada. So or traveling around to get there. So I had had a lot of experiences outside of Tennessee, and I knew I wanted a broader life. Craig: [00:09:52] Right? And so once you made it to Arizona, you figured out you wanted to stay there for a little bit. Frances: [00:09:57] Well, I finished school there and got my first master's there. And because for me, the Arizona was like the Moon, right? Yeah. You know, if you compare it to Tennessee with all the intimate foliage, these those vast expanses of space, we're very liberating and and yet, you know, confusing. But that was what I was looking for. I was looking to really challenge myself, not only to new people, but new environment. Craig: [00:10:27] After you got the first masters. Were you going straight into your your personal art practice or were you thinking about teaching? I know you spent some time in England. How did you make that choice coming out of there? Frances: [00:10:40] Well, in finishing school, you know, I needed a job and my mother had had been a teacher, and my mother also actually has an art degree from the University of Michigan. So I had that background as well. And so I taught in an elementary school in. Arizona, as I was finishing my masters, I taught art and actually to migrant children, which was really cool, right? So anyway, I had already had that teaching experience. And of course, the most obvious thing for people with master's in in art is to teach, because that's a job that you can do right or that that that is marketable. So I was ready to do that. But I got married in Arizona to my first husband, and he was also an artist but a ceramicist. Ok, and at the time, I was taking ceramics, to my degree, is in painting and printmaking from Arizona State and Tempe. But I got very, very involved in ceramics because it was three dimensional. Sure. And and the reason I even mentioned three dimensional is because as a painting student and and having been a painter for a period of time, I always realized or I began to realize that when I was painting, I was imagining what I was painting in real space. Sure. And that was kind of a clue that maybe I'm operating in a different space than the picture plane, which is what I think people have to do if they're a painter. It's almost like you have to let yourself enter that world and it takes intense concentration. You're not in this physical world. Frances: [00:12:41] I have a I'm a very physically oriented person, and I understood that I wanted my body to relate to what I was making or even other people's physical experience to relate to it. So little by little, I inched my way out of the two to deplaning into the three D plane. I had taken sculpture courses, but I was not at all interested in the macho way they were teaching sculpture at that time. We're talking the late sixties. So consequently, I mean, I had remarks made to me like, That's pretty good for a girl. And I began to realize that if you wanted to be successful in those in the art departments of universities at that point in time, you needed to your work couldn't look like you were female. It had to look like you were either male or neuter. So you were you were always dodging. But but that was right about the time Judy Chicago did the dinner party. So that was also right about the time that the book The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan came out. And it really both those things and other things really hit me hard. I realized that I had not realized how suppressed and not just in art and all ways of life that I had been. And all we women who are, you know, needing to be ourselves had been sure. And so I really embraced feminism at that point, and it liberated me because when I could let my work show who I was, then it totally opened up all kinds of direction. You know, Craig: [00:14:40] That transition from painting and printmaking to sculpture did. Was it gradual? Did you find yourself starting to make reliefs and and then kind of figuring out Frances: [00:14:51] It was gradual, but not too gradual? I had all my life made things this matter fact, when I was a little girl on the farm, I wanted a pony and my parents wouldn't buy me a pony. So first of all, I painted the pony. That's me with my pony in that self-portrait against the wall. That's the pony that I wanted, and that's my portrait. You can see my. Craig: [00:15:17] So what age are we talking? Frances: [00:15:18] Well, there I'm five. But then as I got older, I didn't get a pony till I was around eight. I made a pony and living on the farm there were saw horses and things around. So I took a saw horse and made a head and a tail and a saddle, and I'd sit on it until I tormented my parents and they finally bought me a pony. So I was making things, you know, and then whenever there was a high school float, I made the float or whenever there was even a college, you know, panel intake. I was in a sorority at the University of Tennessee. So I was. That changed overnight to when I went to Arizona, but I made all the displays that we did for all the football games and everything, so I always I had been building things ever since I was a kid, so it wasn't a hard transition at all. It was just a matter of realizing that was the art, not the painting. I mean, what I needed to. Craig: [00:16:20] I guess that first work was it small scale? Was it ceramic? What was the art world's perception of 3-D work at that time? I mean, I know, well, I never. Hess was doing some interesting things with resin and things at the time, but like run of the mill, like where where would you have been starting at that point Frances: [00:16:40] Where I started was with ceramics, because that was certainly a perfect venue for making sculpture in a in a in any kind of way. You know, I didn't need a crane. I didn't need chisels. I could easily make ceramic sculpture. And interestingly enough, the ceramic sculpture I made early on relates in a great deal to the the sculpture, the larger things I do now with a bit of a narrative to it and a bit of, you know, structure as well as organic form. And and when I look back, I go, Wow, I was doing it. Then I left it for a while. Then when I became a full fledged sculptor sculptor to be more abstract and I took out all the imagery and and so forth. But, you know, I'm kind of jumping ahead of your question, but that's OK. But somewhere along the line and actually it was I could date it, but I was always I was white making abstract sculpture and and I realized that that I wanted to incorporate something. You know, I felt something was missing for me and I realized what it was is something figurative, something human that I could work with because I see now that my message is really about the human being and the human condition. And so consequently, matter of fact, this painting over here above the table was done around the same time the time that I began to allow myself to put put the figure or the organic form into the abstract sculpture. Right. And part of my reasoning was I was kind of lonesome for my girlfriends, which had moved away. Frances: [00:18:42] And I, you know, so I made them. I made these large figures and this one is called the five women. So there are five women in that relief on the wall, right? And then I also physically made. It took me a long time to develop techniques for my sculpture that weren't traditional, that worked for me again because I said I didn't want to do that the the traditional sculptural media. And I discovered that if I made work with small bits of things, particularly at that time sticks small sticks that then I could build big things right? I always wanted to make it big. I have a real almost problem with scale. I love scale. I love really. And I have actually a slight problem making things small right now because we have this big space and I want the I want work big, but at least it's it's tends to be life size or bigger. Most of the time. So anyway, I figured out techniques that I could use that were all mine, that that would translate and and also not end up with things that it couldn't be lifted by me or couldn't be manipulated by me. Later, I had many of those pieces cast in bronze, which helped the marketability of them right, but and helped the longevity of them, for sure. Sure. But they were originally made with splintered shingles that then were now pinned together and and formed, you know, a structural form that was so organic. Craig: [00:20:36] But even the way you describe that work, then it sounds a lot like your work now in terms of I see a lot of forms that allude to the figure. They're like figurative components by themselves may not even be recognized as being part of the body, but as you start assembling around it, but they take on. Human form and easy lift, I mean, the fact that I think you use a lot of foam, Frances: [00:21:04] I do now, yeah, right. Those early pieces I call vessel figures because I made them as if they were, you know, pots, you know, interspersed in this timeline is a year in England working as an apprentice potter with Michael Leach, who's Bernard Leach? Who was Bernard Leach, his son? And I actually made production pottery to the sixteenth of an inch. I mean, calibrated to be dinnerware, but I. And so in making ceramic sculpture, I had also the skill to be a potter, and my ex-husband and I ran a pottery in Georgia, in Macon, Georgia, actually. And. And so I I I was always interested in the fact that a pot has a belly, a lip, a foot, a neck and all those body parts. That's the way they're described. So then when I started making sculpture, I made enormous shapes that were figurative, but not they were. They were some hybrid between a pot and a body with belly and foot and lip and then open. But but they weren't closed. They they were made as a structure, so they were air flowed through their visual throat flowed through. But I call them vessel figures, my very first ones. So then from there went beyond and I and I do use a lot of foam because I want it again, big and light and I want form and I want to control that form and foam is real easy to do that. Craig: [00:22:52] So you've been using foam for a while? Do you do you find that it's holding up over time? Frances: [00:22:58] Some does and some doesn't. It will, for sure. If you coat it, you know, then then you're fine. But I actually really like the way it looks when it's not coated, so I have to talk myself into coating something. But that's where the the line is drawn as to whether if it gets air and sun, it won't. Craig: [00:23:19] You go to England, you wind up coming back to Georgia instead of pottery studio. How did you make it to Texas? Frances: [00:23:26] Well, and so my ex-husband and I moved from Georgia to Texas for him to teach at North Texas. So we lived in Denton and I proceeded to get a second masters, this time in sculpture while in Denton. And that was great, of course. You know, my husband was part of the faculty and I, I, you know, was taking courses which which is normal and people do that. But I felt that I got a lot of opportunity there to do what I wanted to and to really experiment with with things. North Texas was a great place for trying out ideas. And so I got an MFA in sculpture there. And then when we broke up and our marriage ended, I moved to Dallas and he stayed there and then. And it it it broke up a little bit because I didn't want to use clay anymore, and he was so devoted to clay. He felt in a way that I had abandoned him by bending, abandoning the material. At least that's what he said. So consequently, I was then I stopped using clay and and haven't gone back since, although sometimes I think how to make a dinnerware set because I've certainly got those skills. Craig: [00:24:59] So at that point, you start making work sculpture, using mixed, mixed media of different types to make forms. Frances: [00:25:08] And I was teaching full time. I came to Dallas and I got a full time job teaching at Mountain View College. And then I was there a few years and then went to Utd and helped develop that whole art program because at the time they didn't have an art department, right? And there were several of us that were brought in at that point in time. And I don't know if you've heard all the controversy over the fact they lost the art barn and they've been moved into regular classrooms and buildings on campus. But we, the group that I was involved with in developing that program, actually had designed the building with the architects to be an art friendly. Structure is very cutting edge, won a whole lot of awards architecturally, and so that's that I spent my next five years teaching there. Craig: [00:26:09] Right. Great. Frances: [00:26:11] But after I left you UTD, I did then become a full time artist. And pardon me, but what? Teach an adjunct class at various schools in the area? And it was great to keep my interaction with the students and to keep my, you know, there's there's a real great thing about teaching sure that that once you stop, it's hard to go back. But but I taught a lot of this in you. I taught at Mountain View again. I taught it to Richland. I taught at Brookhaven. I did a whole lot. Craig: [00:26:51] I know there was work that I saw that you did was they call a weather report and that was an installation that you had done where those figurative elements were, you know, really kind of alluded to under under. Everything is covered in cloth. Right? Frances: [00:27:13] They did. I think you're about to say this, but you didn't. But they alluded to classical sculpture, for sure. And I do have a very strong affection for classical sculpture that I remember in my early art history classes, just being so impressed by Bernini, especially because of his ability to create that emotion in the bodies. Although in that weather report installation, you're talking, they're rather stiff classical poses. But that was to make a point about sort of the status quo, right? Or the the structure, the hierarchy of our society. So but yes, they they're all covered in cloth. And interestingly enough, that installation was done when we bush had just declared war on Iraq. Hmm. And I was so depressed about it that the whole thing totally changed. It was going to be quite colorful and still with a similar sort of elements arranged not exactly like they ended up, but but all the joy had gone out of me. So the whole thing turned gray. Right? And so I changed all the cloth to gray and then changed a few other things and and then titled it weather report in a way to sort of speak of the tone of where we were. Craig: [00:29:04] Your your process. Do you start conceptually or do you just get your hands on materials and start dabbling and things emerge? Or are you responding to? Frances: [00:29:17] Well, interesting question, because I often have intention. I think a lot about concept and I'll have intention, but I almost never follow my my, my. It's, you know, I outline what I think I'm headed toward, but I almost never totally follow it because for me, the real excitement about art is for the art to talk back to me to tell, to say, Wait a minute, this is not. You need to try this instead. So the process and and. Well, so I say I started to say that I probably like to experiment with materials. I like to investigate things, but I do start with intention that is is not held to right. And that takes me off on all kinds of tangents, which I think in Career-wise has been a drawback. But esthetically and creatively, it's been wonderful because I'm I'm very free in my sense of creativity. Craig: [00:30:33] When did you first start incorporating video and media into your work? Frances: [00:30:39] In the mid 2000s? Although back at Utenti Getting My Masters, I did experiment with video. That video was brand new, right? And so we all were going, What can we do with this? So I had a sense of it and. I like video as a as an element that isn't isn't a story, you know, I don't want the video to take time. I want it to be the part of the action at the moment. So I don't usually use video in a way that you have to watch it as a video. It becomes part of the environment or part of the installation or the entire installation, right? So in the mid 2000s, I began, I'm trying to think what exactly? I think my very first large video project was because I was thinking so much about how we are being watched all the time with surveillance. And I thought, What is that? Is there a way to talk about what that feels like to be watched? So I began to solicit my friends to let me film their eyes. And now I call it a collection, you know, got almost two hundred sets of eyes. And the criteria was that whoever is being filmed had to. They could see themselves in the viewfinder of the camera so they could keep their eyes centered in the viewfinder. Frances: [00:32:32] But there could be no nostrils and no hairline. Right. And they were to look at the camera. The viewfinder keep themselves there for six minutes and try not to blink. Right? Well, that's impossible. But if I didn't ask them to try not to blink, the blinking is unbelievable how much there is in someone's as if when you film them right. So the effort not to to slow it down. Mm hmm. Anyway, so I collected these eyes and then mounted the first installation with every with seven inch players and every player was on a stand that stimulated or referenced a body, you know, like a soldier, not not really a soldier, but like a, you know, in sort of a regimented, sure composition. So then you've got these eyes all looking at you. But what was extremely interesting about that and I've used these eyes in other configurations since, and it's always this. This fact always is true. The eyes are not threatening at all. As a matter of fact, it absolutely reverses itself. You're looking at them. Mm hmm. And I did ask the people who were, you know, my friends and others who would allow me to film them that to, you know, to ask them to look at the picture plane. Frances: [00:34:10] So there is a point where their eyes are focusing. So it's not on infinity, right? So that's one reason I think it's not penetrating as much as it might, but I'm not sure if it ever would, because that that ability for you to look at all these people's eyes is empathetic, right? So it doesn't threaten it. It creates almost a human experience of being able to study someone's eyes. Sure. And all kinds of interesting things happen from from filming people and using their eyes in that sometimes they don't even know it's them when you they can't recognize themselves, when you extract an element from the face and it's not in relation to the other elements. I've had people say, Where am I don't see me in here? Or I've had people say, Well, those are my eyes, and I'd say, No, they're not. Another thing that's interesting is one woman I filmed. I never thought of her as very pretty at all. But when took her eyes away from her face, they're in amazingly beautiful eyes, and that all became super interesting to me. Sure. So anyway, that was the first one, and I continued to do that. I continue to film people and use them in different ways. Frances: [00:35:40] The eyes. And then I did it with horses, eyes and wow. And because as a, you know, a girl that had to have a pony, I have a whole lot of relationship to animals and especially to the the the the horse's. Eyes phenomenal, and you can't help but look at it and they look at you, right? And they study you. And I had a real hard time finding a horse that wasn't tired, though I would go to these stables and they were so tired they they weren't relating to me in the way I wanted to see that I relate. And finally, I found a friend I found had a jumping horse. And so that horse was intense and looked at me exactly the way I wanted the horse to and got the captured eyes there. So video continued to be involved off and on in the future. I don't, you know, I noticed one one of my processes is not to move from A to B to C to D. I work more in a spiral, things I've worked with, all I picked back up again and do it another way and another time. It's more maybe a corkscrew. Yeah, yeah. And so I when I I'm not finished with anything, right? It seems. Craig: [00:37:11] Yeah, it reminds me of a conversation I had with Joseph Havel, where he like every time someone tries to put me in a box, I rebel and I try something new. But that doesn't mean I'm never going to go back to it. You know, it just means I want. I want to move on to something else. And but, you know, it's just one more arrow in your quiver. I imagine you just figure out how these things keep interacting in new ways and coming together because there's there are certain things like foam figures, the draping, the video that keep coming back up and reconfiguring in new ways. Frances: [00:37:51] Yeah, they do. And that's I think that's great. Of course, again, this art world, this art market would rather you didn't do that. Craig: [00:38:03] Right. Those are almost two things. Yeah, different things are art world and art market. Frances: [00:38:07] It's up to the artist to decide where they are willing to land. You know, what do they want from it? And what I want is that experience between me and it and letting it take me where it needs to go. Craig: [00:38:21] So maybe this is a good time to talk about public art. When did you first get into doing public art in the big, big commissions? Frances: [00:38:31] You know, it's interesting you asking me that I actually am going to have to really think about what the first one was. But again, in my experience, you know, I had a lot of experience on the ground floor of public art. I have always done large temporary art. Ok, that would be the beginning. I made built some very, very large pieces in New York over the years in various sculpture parks and then Connemara here in Dallas. I was early on involved with that know it no longer exists, but it was a sculpture park out in Allen, Texas, that the Williams family and Amy Monet ran for years and gave artists all kinds of great chances to try things outdoors. The I got a commission when I was exhibiting with D.W. Gallery back early in the eighties to build a life sized bird for a development and and and I did it. The development never happened. But the bird inside was it life size? It was. It was huge. It was, you know, 20 feet tall. And and so that was my first chance to really build something big that was could be permanent. I mean, I certainly built lots of things that, you know, might not be permanent. So it was made of steel. And I, you know, I made the model, Oh oh, I know the then the second one was and I didn't get this commission, but I sure wanted it. It was a commission for the city of Lubbock and and I designed a guitar dock for their lake that you could walk out onto the guitar that was like, you know, 40 feet long. Frances: [00:40:35] And and and then, you know, pull your boat up to the neck of the guitar to do to reference all the music coming out of Lubbock. So I had several chances to not get it and build models and figure them out and learn. And of course, having run the public art, I knew what was involved in what I. Needed to figure out, like, how much is this going to cost? Who's going to do this? How is this going to work, et cetera? So then I still can't remember. Oh, well, when I worked with Dart, I got to do the design of a few of the stations. So of course, I had that experience. But again, the very first commission as a public artist, I'm not sure what it was. But over the years when Tom and I teamed up, we have done a few together and then I've done several separate ones and he's done separate ones. But our White Rock Lake piece was probably the one I think met the what I would aspire to in public art, which was it had message. It was environmentally sound. It was about the environment and and it was educational and it interacted with the viewer and it and I guess you probably know that it's since been removed because of lack of maintenance on it. Frances: [00:42:13] So it was there for 10 plus years in the white and white rock lake. Right. So we called it the Wildlife Water Theater, and it referenced the fact that the Bath House had a theater and in the water you could see another group of performers and we researched who would perform at what times of year. And there, you know, between birds and reptiles specifically and made these. It came about an interesting way. We went out to the lake to see what we should propose. And I said to Tom, because there were still poles in the water from the swimming that happened at White Rock Lake in front of the bathhouse. And I said to Tom, Look, look, Howie, when a bird stands on a pole, it makes a sculpture. Actually, it's a pole with an object on top and. And he said, What if we put one hundred poles out there? And then that went into the idea that you could have all these birds and then we floated this in the water because that lake is full of turtles, right? And oh, well, I'll back up. I need to tell you this part. And in the eighties, I had built a floating sculpture in that exact spot for a temporary project, and I had built a floating drawing right there and with wood and so forth and colors. And and so I floated this drawing in the water and it was covered with turtles immediately and birds. Frances: [00:43:52] And that that gave me the idea that I knew those those animals were there to interact with. So that's that's why we ended up doing so. Our Wildlife Water Theater had marquees on the land and there were, I guess you'd call them signs. But but illustrations of what animals would you could see perform and gave you a little bit of their resume. Sure. Like what they looked like and what, what they did and so forth and so on in order to install that piece and in order to maintain it ourselves, which we did for five years. As part of our commission, we had to buy wetsuits and we would go out and into the water, actually into the water and clean the poles and clean the the lights because it had an LED light component, solar powered and the turtles and some of these are snapping turtles would follow us in the water like a dog staying a little far back. But just you'd walk over here and the turtle would be behind you, right? And they never they don't bite. And we learned a lot about wildlife. They don't bite in the water at all. They might have bitten us on land or attacked us or something if we annoyed them. But on the water, they never did. They just followed us. It was pretty, pretty amazing. Craig: [00:45:17] So tell me about collaborating with your husband. What is what is that like? Frances: [00:45:22] Well, it's very interesting and very time consuming. I had collaborated for years with a group we called Toxic Shock, a group of women before Tom and I were even together, and we made several noteworthy works of art and even were featured on some level in in a show the Dallas Museum did several years ago to talk about the history of the Dallas art community. Because this we. Five women really had a beautiful collaborative process that was very intellectual and very satisfying in that we did things that not one of us would done would have done by ourselves, right? We only together would these these works of art have been come to fruition or even come to a thought. So anyway, I was very prepared to collaborate, and I'm not sure that Tom was. But for some reason, I guess he saw the benefit because as a married couple, as a as a couple, we are a team. We divide tasks we even talk about. Division of labor is one of the secrets of marriage, right? Because if you handle that, I'll handle this. Will will communicate well, discuss, then we'll plan. And so that's what collaboration is. And we even built a house together, which is really one of the hardest things to do. Designed and built and and we're our own contractors. So we have had that experience Craig: [00:47:10] They say if your marriage can survive that you know, you're on solid footing. Frances: [00:47:16] And we know that. So we know that we can do it. So working together is actually just good sense because I have skills that he doesn't. He has skills that I don't. And so you put them together and you get even more from from the team. But people like for us to work together for I'm not exactly sure why. And so we've been asked to do things together almost more than we want to write because we don't want to become just a team. We we each have individual things to say and and careers and and and and and art to make that is not collaborative. But our very most important collaborative project was the Dallas Opera's 50th anniversary production of Nabucco. And that was just an amazing experience when the opera came to us and said, Would we want to do this? I think almost all artists, especially three dimensional artists, but I bet painters too, because I know David Hockney has done it. All kinds of great painters have done sets for productions, whether they're opera or dance or something else. And I think both of us in years past have daydreamed about doing that. But there's a huge learning curve if you're doing something for a production that's established. And so that was our response. We don't there's too much to learn to prepare for this actual production of Nobuko. And they said, Oh no, well, we have a technical person that will figure all the technical technical aspects out, and we'll hold your hand in your designs to be sure that they can be translated. Right? Well, that's all we needed to do. That was dynamite because this guy was brilliant. Wonderful, patient, fabulous. Sure. And as artists who had built lots of big things ourselves, we were not daunted at all by the idea of designing these sets. Frances: [00:49:42] It was right up our alley and it just worked beautifully. And we also said to the opera, We don't know a lot about opera. We've both been to the opera. We have some concept, but we're not opera buffs. And they said, Oh, that's actually good, right? Because you'll bring something new and you won't feel bound by what's been done before. Sure. So we must have. We watched every production of Nabucco that we could find in in film and video and knew immediately what we didn't want to do. We felt that every production had the same problem, and that was that in this in in this opera Nabucco, there are so many people on stage at the same time that you've got to first. I separate them somehow, so you know who they are and you've also got to elevate them because you guys have a whole bunch of people on the floor of the of the stage. It's just a mess. And even, you know, the Metropolitan didn't do what we did. And so we were very proud of ourselves in terms of designing sets that were modular would turn into lots of. Different things in an abstract way. And that elevated the the various characters when they were on stage together, so that and also color coded them with light. So you would know who was a Hebrew and who was a Babylonian because of what what they were wearing or what color light was on them or how they were interacting on the set, et cetera. So it was it was a super experience for us. Craig: [00:51:30] And so when the opera came to you, did they encourage you to be as contemporary as you want it to be? I mean, is that in my mind, one of the decisions a company would need to make is, Hey, can we breathe new life into one hundred and fifty year old piece about something that happened three thousand years ago, saying, How can we make this look and feel contemporary? Frances: [00:51:54] Well, yeah, you know, I they certainly did imply that we could go in our direction. And at the time, they had a director who had done this in Europe a lot. And so consequently, she she'd done it with artists. And so she wanted to try to implement that here in in in in Texas. Now they haven't done it again with artists. So we're not sure that in the long run, they they appreciated the the avant garde or experimental nature of what we did because they've gone right back to where they well, not totally. Now they're able to do a lot of video projection in the new theater. We were still at the music hall, so they could you couldn't do that, some of that technology. But anyway, yes, they gave us an open ended charge and we actually found that the theater at sea, having been a visual artist all these years, there's a difference in the esthetics of of theater, which was very liberating. We felt that their esthetic was much more open ended than a visual artist esthetic because we're taught as visual artists to own our esthetic and put parameters around it. This is within the boundary that I work as an artist. But when you're doing theater, you have to go in whatever direction works. So when we would try things, they were almost more open to it than we know a visual criteria might have been. Like, for instance, when we came up with the the idol for the the Babylonians, the the ball ball, I'm trying to think, yeah, there was another word that went with that. But anyway, we tried many things. I even made, you know, bulls and various things. But in the in the opera that it has, he has to be destroyed. And so we needed to figure out how to destroy him without having them having to rebuild him every day, right? Whenever. Frances: [00:54:25] So so having worked with all these taxidermy animals that I've collected, right? I had a squirrel, you know, a skin plug. They call them, you know, just a form of a squirrel with no, no detail. And he was exactly the right size for this large model that Tom had made. Tom is the expert model builder. And so I painted him gold and stuck him in there and said trying to actually shock them a little bit to see how far they let us go, right? I said something. I'd like to see something real, real, organic and almost grotesque here for this idol, right? And they love this thing. And and because you really couldn't tell what it was, you had no. And we would never tell until the opera was finished that it was actually a squirrel because people thought it was a gecko or some lizard or whatever. And so, of course, we didn't build these sets, and that was great. We supervised them being built with a set company, but so they carved life-size, well, life size 12 feet. This squirrel? And and then made a half impression in fiberglass so that this is an opera trick or a theater trick that we learn. From them by painting the the half shell of a translucent material gold and shining light on it. He was gold. When you shine light behind it, he turned transparent again. So that's the way we destroyed him is the lightning struck and the light shined from behind instead of from in front. And he became transparent and all you had was his skeleton in there. Wow. And so that was very effective, and we were really excited about that part of it. Craig: [00:56:36] Have you been approached to do any other theater design since then? Frances: [00:56:40] No, we haven't. And we would have liked to. You know, we were disappointed in the way that because we would have liked to have done more right. It was really a very intense and exciting experience. Craig: [00:56:54] So are you working on any anything in this studio right now? Like, are you working towards any shows or is it really public art that's on... Frances: [00:57:05] Right now public art is the primary focus, always looking for possible exhibitions. As of the last few years, I have decided not to be affiliated with the gallery because I've realized it's not fair to the gallery because I'm not interested in making work that sells right now. I've certainly done it in the past and been satisfied by it, and but I don't want to feel like I need to make a certain kind of work for them, which is only fair, right? And more and more galleries, though, are willing to show experimental work. And at some point I may again, you know, affiliate with a gallery. But right now, I want no sense of obligation beyond myself because I'm I'm needing that that time to, you know, get back into another direction. That's not exactly not another direction, but another body at work got it. That doesn't need anything imposed on it. Craig: [00:58:27] Where can people find out more about your work? Where can they find you? Frances: [00:58:31] Well, that's a good question. Well, certainly at my website, which is is not totally up to date, but has a good cross section of work from the past. And I'm starting to post on Instagram, which seems to be the new way that people really know what other people are doing. And I think I've got @francesbagleyart where where a personal things are going on another right site. But I'm only putting art on that one, and I have some permanent work around the town of Dallas and in Japan and a few other places. But but I'm not real easy to find, and that's an interesting question. It makes me admit it. Craig: [00:59:26] So what is your web web address? Frances: [00:59:28] It's francesbagley.com Craig: [00:59:30] OK, so francesbagley.com nd we think Instagram is @francebagleyart. Frances: [00:59:35] Yeah Craig: [00:59:36] OK. I really appreciate getting to sit down and talk to you about where you've been and where are you going? And I really appreciate you taking time out on a weekend to have a conversation. Frances: [00:59:47] Well, thank you. You've been really delightful to talk to. Craig: [00:59:51] Ok. Thank you. Craig: [01:00:04] And now the news, Craig: [01:00:09] It may sound counterintuitive, but galleries specializing in NFTs are beginning to pop up around the world. The art asset is natively digital, but the world still has a desire to see art on walls and own something that could be tangibly displayed. That's why I'm a big fan of Canvia, and that's why we're starting to see legacy art world dealers begin to create new spaces just for NFTs. The most notable announcement thus far is an offering from Nagel Drexler Gallery. The Berlin space will open in January with a show from the art world poly hyphenate Kenny Schachter. The project is currently slated to be called Crypto Cabinet. The legendary Dave Hickey, who is known in art circles as the bad boy of art criticism, passed away on the 12th of this month at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, succumbing to heart disease. Dave was opinionated, bombastic and purely Texan, which made him an unexpected harbinger of taste in the art world, he wrote for every major art news outlet and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. His critical essays were published in two volumes. Nineteen ninety three is the Invisible Dragon for essays on beauty in Nineteen Ninety Seven's air guitar essays on art and democracy. The latter air guitar is considered by many as the finest work of art criticism ever produced. His writing would deviate from the linear task of analyzing paintings and travel down side topics as diverse as TV families, sports, politics and outlaw country music. If you have an opportunity, pick up one of his books or search for one of his many taped discussions that you can find on YouTube. Pbs has recently released a new episode of its documentary series Secrets of the Dead that shines a light on the theft and recovery of the Caravaggio painting Saint Jerome writing. Craig: [01:02:14] The painting is a historic piece of the Caravaggio puzzle. Caravaggio had fled Rome after the murder of Renzo Tomassoni in Salt exile in Malta. There, he hooked up with the Knights of Saint John and was even inducted into the order himself. He hoped the order could help him get a pardon from the pope. It was during this time that he painted a Saint Jerome writing, as well as the beheading of John the Baptist, which is arguably one of his greatest works and the only painting he ever signed. Caravaggio stayed put in Malta until he again got in an argument with another night, busted down his door and injured him with his sword. So that's the story of the painting. Then there's the story of the theft. It turns out that these two paintings that I just described still lived in St John's Co Cathedral in Valletta, Malta, in nineteen eighty four. Two thieves arrived in the afternoon, paid admission to see the exhibit of historic artwork and made their way upstairs to the gallery that housed our pal Jerome. They then placed a work in progress sign in the doorway while they remove the painting from the wall and cut it from its frame. The painting was then rolled up and dropped from the window to the sidewalk below. They then calmly left and picked up the canvas on the way to the getaway car. I let the documentary fill you in on the rest of the details about the thieves inability to fence the painting and how it was eventually returned. Craig: [01:03:47] But let's just say that the museum director had to take matters into his own hands to locate and return the painting more than two years later. It's Miami Art Week, which means the art world is gathering this week in South Florida to gawk and be gawked at. Art Basel started organizing its US version of its iconic art fair back in two thousand two, and the event has outgrown everyone's expectations. It's not just Art Basel Miami Beach that will be taking place this week. It's also countless parties, exhibitions, projects and other art fairs that reach a variety of different audiences in Miami Beach. These include Design Miami Inc, Miami, the satellite art show Scope Miami Beach and Untitled Miami Beach. There are at least another eight art fairs going on in the Greater Miami metro area, including Art Miami. The festivities began yesterday and run through Sunday, December 5th. If you're headed to Miami, have fun, but watch out for variants. That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rates show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. And click on the Podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Craig at Canvia. Art, thanks for listening.
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