John William Bailly
Cabeza de Vaca, 2003
Oil on canvas
72 x 86 inches / 183 x 218 centimeters
Collection of Zillman Art Museum
Museum Acquisition with funds provided by Bonnie & Peter Dockter
This 2003 painting foretells Bailly’s interest in the Transatlantic Exchange, between Europe and the Americas. Named after the explorer Cabeza de Vaca, the 6 x 8 foot painting merges seemingly random information: maps, fauna, and a typically European architecture. Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to enter what is now the USA, and this painting is meant to reflect on that initial contact of beauty and horror.
The painting features two blue spheres. The one on the left is a map of how Europeans thought the world was before Columbus’ voyage. The Americas appear on the one on the left. This indicates that the world changed decisively in the this moment of contact.
The palette of yellow, green, and brown represent the fauna and land of the Americas. Intermingled in this landscape are hands detached from bodies. The hands reach out for connection, safety, and despair. The organic nature of the colors is contrasted by the achromatic structure of the Baths of Diocletian and white tiles. These two components represent the imposed structure of Europe asserting itself on the Americas.
Lastly, in the lower left corner, there is an illustration of how we see things-a reflection on our perception. The viewer is invited to look and free to perceive their own reality of the Transatlantic Exchange.
EDITORS AND LAST UPDATE
Stephanie Sepúlveda & John William Bailly 23 December 2020
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