Last November, Ojai lost a powerful presence in the art world: Carolyn GlasoeBailey, who died at age 46 after a lengthy battle with glioblastoma brain cancer. She left behind a 27-year career that included the opening of two galleries, a collection of interviews with dozens of icons of the art world, numerous art collections for individuals and museums that she personally curated, and the launch of careers of artists such as Rob Fischer, Todd Norsten, David Rathman and Sterling Ruby. The fiercely creative GlasoeBailey is celebrated in Fierce Generosity, a memorial exhibit at Ojai’s Porch Gallery that includes the works of 39 artists touched by the art dealer’s presence.
“When I emailed all the artists [about GlasoeBailey’s death] a lot were just deeply, deeply devastated because Carolyn had really transformed their careers,” said Lila Glasoe Francese, GlasoeBailey’s sister and president of the Carolyn GlasoeBailey Foundation, during a July 22 talk at the exhibit.
Some of the works currently on display at the Porch Gallery include a ceramic ashtray by L.A. artist Sterling Ruby; photographs from Alec Soth, Melanie Schiff, Chris Larson and Kevin Landers; the paintings of Charlotta Westergren, Peter Rostovsky and Enoc Perez; and sculptures by Rob Fischer, Ry Rocklen and Tam Van Tran. “It really speaks to the qualities of Carolyn that so many artists contributed so many incredible works to support the foundation,” said Frederick Janka, director of development for the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, where GlasoeBailey served on the board. “She helped so many people, whether they were artists or museum directors, solve problems.”
Many of these artists hail from Minnesota, where GlasoeBailey opened her first gallery at age 18, although her influence extended worldwide. Surprisingly, she was less active in the Ventura County art scene — but no less beloved for it. “She lived here [in Ojai] for 20 years,” explained Lisa Casoni, co-director of the Porch Gallery. “This was her refuge.” Casoni and fellow co-director Heather Stobo — together known as “the Porch Girls” — had a more personal relationship with GlasoeBailey and her family (which includes husband Chris Bailey, 9-year-old son Matson, sister Francese and her husband Dines and daughter Fliss). “She would love to cook and have people over,” Casoni recalled. The program for Fierce Generosity ends with an apple crisp recipe given to GlasoeBailey by artist Shannon Kennedy, whose photography appears in the show.
The body of work represented in the show is tremendously diverse. Hugh Steers’ paintings show intimate, domestic scenes of himself and his partners, while Xaviera Simmons’ portraits with aerial photographs of Africa and the Amazon are an attempt to reclaim power from colonizers. Marc Swanson’s crystal-encrusted deer antler, in the words of Janka, “brings that fabulousness to a very dark trophy.” Harlem-based Sanford Biggers mixes African American and Buddhist motifs.
What all these artists share is GlasoeBailey’s support. The art dealer helped raise their stars to great heights, thanks to her connections and a nearly infallible nose for talent and potential. “Her thing was emerging artists, and supporting artists who were alive and working,” Francese said, adding that her sister would often refer artists she believed in to other galleries and dealers who she felt could better represent them. “She was interested in the path of their career, not just selling a piece.”
Also on display is Rob Fischer’s “Half Poetry, Half Prose,” a sculpture made of painted glass panes that sits in the Porch Gallery’s front yard. Fischer is the first Artist in Residence award-winner, chosen by the CGB Foundation, and the unveiling of his commissioned sculpture opened the Fierce Generosity exhibit. Proceeds from art sales will benefit the foundation, which aims to support the arts and sciences; one “pie-in-the-sky” dream for the organization is the eventual creation of an outdoor sculpture garden.
Carolyn GlasoeBailey will be remembered for many things. As an avid art lover and collector, a vivacious character who loved to cook and entertain, an intrepid traveler, a loving wife, mother and sister, a big personality with “the inherent Glasoe moxie to just make shit happen.” But what stands out the most are her contributions to the contemporary art world through her support and sponsorship of some of the most talented artists of their generation. She was fiercely devoted to the emerging artists who inspired her, generous with her time, guidance and advice. “Carolyn was a friend who was a fierce advocate for art and the artist alike,” said sculptor Marc Swanson in the program for Fierce Generosity. “She spread love and joy wherever she went.”
Fierce Generosity runs through Aug. 21 at the Porch Gallery, 310 E. Matilija Ave., Ojai. For more information call 620-7589 or visit www.porchgalleryojai.com.