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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Radcliffe Bailey House

I was interviewing the artist Radcliffe Bailey for Paulson Bott Press, and the conversation drifted from art-making towards architecture and his house, which was designed by the noted firm Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Inc. I thought it would be interesting to share his thoughts and some of Tim Hursley’s beautiful images.

Interviewer: How did you meet Scogin and Elam?

Radcliffe Bailey: In Atlanta, the arts community is so small, and they were involved in a magazine and a museum. The magazine is called Art Papers. They were on the board. I went through like six architects, and I got tired of them bullshitting me, and I looked back at my notes and I said, oh, they’re here. So I just called them and went to meet them. I went in with my slides and showed them my work. And then they did their thing.

I didn’t give them any “I want this,” “I want that.” The studio that I had in Atlanta was about 7,000 square feet, and it was like a truck—an 18-wheeler could go through it, and I loved the space. So they came in and measured the dimensions—the width and ceiling height. And they came in with that space. I didn’t want windows. The Plexiglas comes right up under the rafters so the light bounces in. They just have this way of working that’s just like making an omelet. It’s like I commissioned them to do a sculpture.

Interviewer: So they just did a sculpture that you moved into?

Bailey: Right.

Interviewer: Did you even say, I need so many bedrooms, or I need a living room, or I’ve got so many kids?

Bailey: They met my family, and we just let them do their thing. You wouldn’t get the best if you just gave them all these restrictions.

Interviewer: Does it feel like the house is an extension of you?

Bailey: It does. It changes during the seasons. I can set it up in different ways where I can get closer to the studio. But also there are days when I won’t go in the studio.

Interviewer: But are you still making art even if you’re not in the studio?

Bailey: Yeah, I am.

Interviewer: Where is the house located?

Bailey: It’s on Civil War ground. There’s a road that went to a mill, and the troops camped out in these woods. So it was never marred.

Interviewer: Do you spend most of your time in your house then? Or do you travel a lot? I always think if I had a great house like that, I would never leave.

Bailey: I have a hard time being there by myself.

All photos courtesy Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects and Timothy Hursley, Photographer.

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