At the close of three successful MFA thesis exhibitions at Gallery 400, we highlight the work of graduating MFAs by looking more closely at their individual practices. Bailey Romaine earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011. She is also a printer and publisher for the Los Angeles and Chicago-based Rough Ray Press.
Bailey Romaine, Lean-to, 2016, vinyl banner, house paint, wood, cotton string, rope, skirting, screws, staples, 45 x 55 x 32 in.
How do you choose the materials for your sculptures?
My sculptures begin as translations of elements in the built environment whether permanent, provisional, or accidental; this also informs my choice of materials. I work largely with salvaged and cast-off building materials such as linoleum flooring, construction-grade lumber, salvaged molding and trim, and house paint remnants. Part of my practice is working with what is at hand; so, I go through this process of accumulating materials, stockpiling what I can find, salvage, etcetera, and then work from that pool of materials. I do not plan my sculptures out ahead of time. The challenge and limitation of working with what is at hand gives the work urgency. They sort of have to be what they are.
Bailey Romaine, Isogloss (installation view), 2016, wall (cut, prop, painted), lumber, deck boards, foam board, insulation,rope, string, house paint, brackets, wooden pegs, screws, ready patch, clamp lights
Your installation for the thesis exhibition was a much larger scale than your other sculptures. How did that change the dynamic of your process?
It was definitely new for me to work at such a large scale! The piece you are referring to – Isogloss – was built directly into a fifty foot long wall in Gallery 400. Despite the much larger scale and the fact that it was site-specific, my process was not that different from the way I build smaller sculptures in my studio. Based on some of the materials I had in my studio and on the larger scale of this project, I decided on a sort of unit of measurement to work with: the 2x6. I also had all this blue insulation foam in my studio that was left over from some of the construction that was going on in the building last year. The biggest challenge with this project was not so much the scale, it was that I was building the piece from the inside out – from inside this crawl space behind the wall and actually cutting through the wall of the gallery. So, not only was I working in this little crawl space for a week and a half, I was also working on something that would only be visible in these little fragments that cut through the wall despite the fact that there was quite a bit going on out of sight. I often talk about my process as a sort of reverse engineering and it is true of this project especially!
What was the most valuable thing you learned while at UIC?
I learned to really listen to and follow my own lines of thought. There will always be people who do not get it or do not like it, and that is okay. It makes it all the more exciting and rewarding when people do respond and get excited about the work you are doing. And those people and conversations are invaluable! Finding those conversations, with advisors, friends, and fellow artists has been one of the most valuable parts of my experience in graduate school.
Now that you are graduating, what is next for you and your art practice?
The first thing I will do after graduation is an artist residency at the Institute für alles Möglich, Berlin. UIC is generously sponsoring me to go for the month of June. Then my partner and I will travel around Europe for the rest of the summer, visiting more rural areas of Europe, especially Scandinavia. I am really looking forward to researching vernacular ways of building and the local folk architectures of these places. As for after the summer, I have several things starting to form on the horizon but nothing that is quite ready to be made public – so stay tuned!