Radcliffe Bailey is one of Atlanta's most successful homegrown artists, featured in more than 30 solo shows across the country, with work in collections from the High Museum to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With his most recent site-specific installation, Bailey has branched out into new territory, tracing his origins via DNA back to Africa for In the Returnal at Solomon Projects (through July 28) and Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries (through Oct. 26) as part of the National Black Arts Festival.
If you could describe In the Returnal to someone not in the arts, how would you? In the Returnal was based on an old spiritual talking about the "returnal days." So return for me was thinking about going back and returning to Gorée Island ... off the coast of Senegal. But at the same time it's talking about me growing and coming of age and talking about kids and maturing.
What is the objective behind having the work shown for the National Black Arts Festival in two different venues? Was it an attempt to reach out to different audiences? I thought it's a good attempt to deal with our relationships between the two art communities. Because I feel like in Atlanta we live in a very segregated world. I can't wait to see more diversity in Atlanta's art world. It should go way beyond black and white. Those are the days of the past. The present is everybody. And that's what's going to make the city interesting to me.
You've lived in Atlanta virtually your whole life. What would make you leave? I live a block away from my parents ... I'm rooted here, but I've also toyed with the thought of having a studio in another city and doing residencies in other countries; moving around, but keeping this as my home. I don't want to go away. As much as I'm not turned on by everything that's here, that doesn't make me want to leave. It makes me want to become busy.
You have been a remarkably successful Atlanta-based artist. Any secret to your success? I think being honest. Not being scared to fall.
You received your degree from the now-defunct Atlanta College of Art. How did you feel about ACA's shuttering? I hate it. I think the Atlanta College of Art is missed.
What advice would you give younger artists? Patience. Slow down; stop chasing. I think that so many artists look for formulas, but I think that artists need to look for rhythms. There was a moment in my life right before my grandmother passed and she gave me photographs. I was about to graduate from the Atlanta College of Art and I'm trying to figure out how to talk about me, and my grandmother gave me the solution.