Friday, January 25, 2013

Contemporary Florence: An interview with Helen Bayley

As an artist and designer one of the most important influences for me are other artists and designers. I believe that having a community of like-minded people who share  the same ideas and passions is essential to creativity. Art in its many forms is a language and I am continually fascinated by the message that other artists aim to communicate though their work
The ideas of the Renaissance masters was not to continue repeating the same ideas and methods but rather to continue pushing forward and create the new and unexpected and to challenge the perception of what art is while paying tribute to those that came before them.  Contemporary art aims to push the boundaries of these accepted ideas and move away from the past to create the present.  With this in mind,  I will be conducting a series of interviews here on my blog to highlight the artists, designers and creative minds of present day Florence
In conjunction with our facebook group Creative People in Florence, I will be conducting these interviews with our group members. In the coming months I hope to be able to interview each member who is currently living in Florence as a way of highlighting their wide range of talents. The questions will be exactly the same for each artist/designer and creative person, what is fascinating are the similarities as well as the differences in the answers.

It's Friday! And that means it's time for another interview with an amazing artist who calls Florence home. With me today is Helen Bayley, painter and Florentine Tour Guide extraordinaire! I had the pleasure of working with Helen a few years back while I was conducting tours of Florence I also participated in the group exhibition Amerigo & America: Contemporary Art in Florence with her. 

Helen has shown her work in galleries in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington DC, and will be one of 8 artists to exhibit at "Gallerie Sparta" in Beverly Hills in their inaugural exhibition later this spring. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am originally form Uk but was educated in US.  First a BFA in Painting at RISD then MFA in Painting at Indiana University.  I then taught painting and drawing at the university level for about twenty years.  The last 7 at Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia.

Why did you choose Florence or did Florence choose you? My first experience in Italy was in 1987 as a study abroad student in Rome.  I caught the Italy bug and as soon as I was able, began to return as often as possible.  I came for travel, study and teaching.  The four years before moving to Florence I attended summer workshops at The Florence Academy of Art.  Florence is perfect fit for me as a city because of it's beauty, art and cultural, history and also size.  I love being able to walk or cycle almost anywhere.

What is your favorite thing/place/sight in the city or all of the above? Piazza della Signora still amazes me as do the views in each direction from the Ponte Santa Trinita and also San Miniato al Monte.

Was there a defining moment when you knew that you wanted to be an artist? If so when and what was it? I was five and began showing other five year olds how to do their school art projects.

What or who is your greatest inspiration and why?  Caravaggio is probably numero uno, but also Bristish painting and Italian Painting.  Many different artists from Sir Thomas Gainsborough to Turner, Artemisia Gentileschi and Lucien Freud.

What is the best thing about being an artist? What is the most difficult part? The best, finding yourself in that creative zone that is becoming completely lost in your work.  Worst, earning a living!

What message do you hope to convey with your art/creative process? My message changes however, there is usually something about man's relationship with nature embedded in each piece.

What is art/design to you? How would you define art? Beauty but not always.  A vehicle for communication.

Do you listen to music when you work? If so who or what? Usually always.  Anything from opera to Pearl Jam.

If you could go back in time 10 years knowing everything that you know now what would you change and why? Or what would you tell yourself? I would have moved to Florence earlier.

How have your two cultures affected your work? I had an excellent education in USA with lots of art history, much of it Italian.  Last year I completed and passed the course to become a licensed tour guide.  Thus Saints!  There will be more saints in my work!

Who is your favorite artist/designer/writer/performer? Odd Nerdrum.

What is your favorite movie? Cinema Paradiso and A Room With a View

What is your favorite book? Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follet and The Sixteen Peasures by Robert Hellenger

Describe yourself in five words. Creative, intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful and independent!

When you’re not being creative what do you do? Work! (as a Tour Guide)
In my free time... walk and spend time with my amazing friends in Florence!

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? I am here.
I would like to travel more and visit more if the great cities and museums in Europe.

Is there anything else that you want people to know about you? As well as being a painter, I am also a teacher and now a licensed guide of Florence.

Thank you Helen for sharing your work and your thought with us! Its been a pleasure!

If you are planning a visit to Florence and looking for a great tour guide with in- depth knowledge of the city and the techniques of the masters, you can contact Helen here.


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