Mary Moore Bailey brings personal petroglyphs to the canvas

Mary Moore Bailey brings personal petroglyphs to the canvas, embracing a connection to nature

Artist Mary Moore Bailey is seen here in her studio in Placitas. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The art of Mary Moore Bailey captures whimsical petroglyphs of her life and travels.

The Placitas painter considers herself a storyteller, be it about her connection to the Earth, her Swedish lineage or her love for New Mexico.

Albuquerque’s Sumner & Dene Gallery is showcasing her work in “A Storyteller’s Dream” through Sept. 24.

Bailey spent 40 years working in advertising and marketing before retiring to New Mexico. She always painted.

“I was always making stuff. In kindergarten, I got in trouble for drawing a woman with big breasts,” she said, giggling. “It was like ‘You’re not supposed to draw those, Mary.’ I think my parents probably laughed.”

A self-described “military brat,” Bailey was born in Grantsburg, Wisconsin before her parents hopscotched through Washington, D.C., England’s House Stanton by the Sea, Massachusetts and finally, Albuquerque. She graduated from Highland High School, where she studied with artist Frank McCulloch, who would leave a large imprint on her work.

“He was very present to who his students were,” Bailey said. “He really had a gift. He had a series of processes to build confidence in design. He didn’t ask people to do what he did.”

McCulloch told his students to fold a piece of paper in half, repeating it 10 more times to produce a sense of composition, she said.

Bailey also loved the work of the Russian abstractionist Wassily Kandinsky and the Swiss painter Paul Klee.

“It’s their color, composition and playfulness,” she said.

“I’ve always seen these archetypal images,” she added. “I studied icons in college, particularly Russian.”

She and her husband moved to Placitas from Seattle in 2015.

“I’ve always loved New Mexico,” she said. “It’s my soul spot.”

Her current acrylic paintings incorporate her personal petroglyph style. Natural symbols of deer and fish abound, as do trees, the sun and the moon.

“It’s really about our connection to each other and the planet and the fact that we are not separate beings,” she said.

“Travels of My Ancestors” traces her Swedish heritage.

“My grandfather came through Ellis Island,” she said. “I’ve never been to Sweden.”

Curious as to whether rock art occurred in that country, she researched online and discovered “tons.”

In 2006, she traveled to the Cave of Niaux archaeological site in France, with its galleries dating from the Magdalenian period, between 17,000 and 11,000 years ago.

“They’re so sophisticated,” Bailey said. “There was a famine that was carved and painted on the wall that looked real. And there were images of bison.”

In “Secret Road to the Falls,” a moon and sun shine over buildings offering a sense of place, with ladders symbolizing spirituality.

“We all have our road,” Bailey said.

“Ode to Bucky” refers to the architect Buckminster Fuller, the founder of geodesic domes and the author of the “Critical Path,” one of Bailey’s favorite books.

“He predicted a lot of what is happening today,” she said, “the familiarization with technology, the speed of the world. He talked about the spaceship Earth and how we have the capability to feed everybody.”

Artist Mary Moore Bailey is seen here in her studio in Placitas. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Bailey’s own spaceship features houses, fences, birds and, of course, ladders.

“When looking at what I wanted my life/art to be about, I read an Einstein quote that said ‘our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole (of) nature in its beauty,’ ” she wrote. “My paintings have been and are an exploration of our connection to each other and the world in which we live.”

Bailey has shown her work across the U.S., in Carmel and Big Sur, California, Seattle and Colorado. Her next show is in Cañon City, Colorado.

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