Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Local Materials + Big Ideas= Paul Bagley

By Victoria Saccomagno
Paul Bagley, Home,Mixed Media Installation, Dimensions Variable, 2012  

Oklahoma City-based artist Paul Bagley works with raw materials to create beautiful and thought-provoking structures. Interacting with the environment instead of solely taking from it is an important part of his work. In speaking casually with him one can immediately sense his progressive attitude toward his life and his art. Bagley perseveres with the motivation to constantly challenge himself by working in tough conditions, such as the projects he has done at Burning Man. I was able to ask him a few questions about the inspiration, preferences, and challenges behind his work.

Q: Generally, what would you say is the inspiration behind your work? Is there an abstraction of form, or do the forms speak for themselves without having a reference?
PB: In essence, I think I’m trying to discover the roots of art, and in that I find myself in love with raw materials for 3D work; i.e. wood, metal, glass, clay, natural materials, preferably up-cycled/recycled/reincarnated/repurposed. I love building something that I’ve drawn on paper. I draw all the time, but sometimes want to be immersed in what I draw.

Q: Do you have a preferred medium? I know that you work with metals, is there a particular type that is more suited to the type of work that you like to produce?
PB: Good question. I used to work commercially in 2D. I did it for so long that I wanted to move on and started to make 3D work, more present and effective. I made it a point to avoid new synthetic materials, especially toxic ones. I realize steel is energy intensive, but it’s a brute and raw material for the ages. I don’t want to use toxic resins or petrochemicals in my work. This includes architecturally. I like using earth materials that are annual renewables  like straw. Some methods I've worked include straw bale, rammed straw, recycled paper-crete, cobb, adobe, etc. Basically, there’s an art and regional beauty to the world, which means building with local materials. You can build a house with what surrounds you.
Paul Bagley, Home (installed at the Hardesty Arts Center),Mixed Media Installation, Dimensions Variable, 2012 
Q: How would you say your process begins? Since your pieces can be so large, is there a sketching/pre-design phase that allows for the structural stability of your work?
PB: Since each piece I make requires a lot of labor, I usually move on to a relatively new idea after accomplishing one that’s been on the drawing board for some time. I start with intent then create the experience through a series of sketches. I usually create a scale model with 2D and 3D software, and then I start building. I usually run into complex surprises that I didn't realize while using a computer. By building all of my work, I learn a lot after the 3D model is built.

In addition to the insight of his work overall, here is the artist’s statement about his piece entitled “Home” for Concept/OK. The work consisted of multiple red ‘nest’ pieces made from mixed materials that hang in various locations throughout the exhibit. 

PB: The motivations for the work are based upon the concept of home and birth. I am always struck by the empty nests within defoliated trees upon winter. Bird’s nests are a reminder that these unique animals move in direct relation to the tilt of the planets axis against the sun, a remarkable scale of migration beyond most other animals on Earth. Without road signs or maps, birds routinely return from the opposite hemisphere to the exact tree or bridge from which they were born, not unlike salmon and sea turtles. 

The Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma exhibition welcomes to the public with free admission through February 16, 2013  at the new Tulsa Arts and Humanities Council’s Hardesty Arts Center. Admission is free of charge. See for more information.  Learn more about Bagley at his website or this recent video

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