Decree of Death, 2019, oil on canvas, 

86 x 118 inches, Courtesy LnS Gallery

John William  Bailly

The works selected for this exhibition recast the transatlantic exchange in a new perspective. Drawing on mythology, history, and biology, these paintings challenge the traditional narrative of the European conquest of the Americas.

Zuan Chabotto, 2019

24 x 18 inches

Ponce de Leon, 2019

24 x 18 inches

John Winthorp, 2019

24 x 18 inches

Jean Ribault, 2019

24 x 18 inches

Jacques Le Moyne, 2019

24 x 18 inches

Hernan Cortes, 2019

24 x 18 inches

Cristoforo Colombo, 2019

24 x 18 inches

Amerigo Vespucci, 2019

24 x 18 inches

Cabeza de Vaca, 2019

24 x 18 inches

Francisco Pizarro, 2019

24 x 18 inches

These paintings see America—a powerful, sexual, divine female—conquer, judge, and cast down man while nature consumes all. The paintings are made by a French-British-American male, raised but not born in the Americas. This irony and hypocrisy is directly confronted, and is central to the works. A French man exploring the Americas; a man painting a female nude. The recognition and struggle with this inherently problematic and personal, yet universal, dynamic is essential in the making of these works. They are the exploration of a struggle. These paintings are not political, nor are they righteous statements. Rather, they aim to ask tough questions of cultural and community identity, specifically as these themes relate to place. Who is who? What is native? What is invasive?

Details of Decree of Death, 2019

The notion of dominance is reversed into an interaction that is simultaneously both allogamous, and violent. The European “conquistadors” are strangled and drowned by serpentine American  mangroves, and suffocated by tropical flora. Water is blood, blood is death, and blood is life. Flowers are life, flowers are death, and nature is inevitable. America, as a powerful woman, surges forward out of a blood Lake Maracaibo, to exert a divine last judgement upon the men of Europe. Both around her and out of her, nature consumes man.

“Expansive in both scale and vision, the paintings evoke violence, chaos and the coming together of European and indigenous peoples of the Americas. The allegory of the Americas as a female figure in The Decree of Death, and the roses forming both the overlaying Fibonacci spiral in all the works, as well as symbols of fertility, sexuality and the fragility of life serve as a profound symbol of this relationship. In the current tempestuous state of politics, Bailly’s paintings pull us back to a genesis; the acuteness of a moment when two forces crashed into each other to become something new: the colonizer and the colonized; the world born from that moment of violence, trauma and fervor.”

Melissa Diaz, Deering Estate Cultural Arts Curator

Artist & Studio

Photo: Pedro Wazzan

Oct 1, 2020 – Jan 15, 2021

Curators: AdrienneRose Gionta and Jeanie Ambrosio

University Galleries

Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters

Florida Atlantic University

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