Love Bailey inhales inspiration and exhales creation. From her upbringing to the experiences of those around her, real-world influences are fused together to create a product that encapsulates emotion and shares a certain light with witnesses to her art. During this year’s Miami Art Basel, Bailey rallied her creative troupe, the “Savages,” to perform on the beach during A Club Called Rhonda.
According to Savage Bashir Naim, Bailey’s spectacle addressed themes of identity and cohesion. “It’s amazing to intersect public space as a queer, marginalized person in tandem with other disenfranchised people,” he said. “To commonly unite in certain spaces to perform and exercise your liminal identity; that’s a catharsis—a conduit to truth, self-acceptance and radical transformation. To engage nature in the mindset that marginalized persons collectively create is inimitable. I wanted that to permeate, to diffuse, to reach the partiers in that moment, as a way of indicating the desire for limitlessness.”
Basel’s ongoing location played a role in the production’s power. “The Miami experience is always magical, but this time it felt like we brought extra pixie dust to sprinkle all over the beach,” said Savage Gregory Alexander. “The whole crew was so lovely, working together to make fantastical moments come to life. From the point of entrance, parading down the beach with the wind blowing the draped looks, to the dance performance lighting the tent aflame, to the table top champagne-showered dance party, to washing it all off in the warm ocean waves, it all seemed like a very fabulous dream.”
LA-based producer Edward Vigiletti described his time in Miami as therapy. “I felt welcomed for once, like I’d found my pack—my Savages,” he said. Fellow artist Los Angela echoed Vigiletti’s perspective, explaining how performing at A Club Called Rhonda felt like swimming and fighting against waves before finally crashing onto a judgement-free shore. “A new me was born in Miami beach,” she said. Bailey’s curatorial eye spawned a magical night beneath the moonlight, according to Elena Lee, who said the Savages all danced and laughed under a disco ball shaped like women’s legs. “[We] created a fun world full of love, glamour and freedom,” Lee said. “I felt like I could do anything [and] be anything—be me.”
The Savages exemplify a new-age modern family. What they seek beyond the physicality of performance art is the freedom to release their inner selves. Eleanor Wells, another self-proclaimed Savage, shared with us a symbolic anecdote from Rhonda: “There was a spotlight on the water [and] ike a group of gilded moths to a flame, we couldn’t resist. No one hesitated to jump in the water for fear of soiling our wardrobe because this moment presented us with what we ultimately seek at all times: liberation from the judgements of others [and] of ourselves, in an effort to experience pure joy.”
Savage performer Simon Seapony envisioned the production as something that could connect the artists with the natural earth. “Guided by unseen forces, we embodied slathered gold,” he said. “On our chariot we made our arrival into our arena, ready for battle [and] ready to dance into the currents of the Atlantic.” In order to share these visceral themes with those unable to experience the magical Miami show in person, we spoke with Bailey to learn more about her childhood, human disco balls and the universe.
Performance art is such an experiential medium. How would you explain the performance at Basel to those who weren’t able to see it?
“It’s really extraterrestrial, the whole experience. From start to finish, dancing with the ones I love, with all of the Savages, we were in a state of liberation that one cannot create. It felt like a heaven on earth or a moment in time that stood still, and we were all connected as one, dancing in the ocean. It was the most surreal thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Art Basel in many ways a draws a very specific crowd and very specific content to the fair. How did Miami inspire you?
“That was my first time in Miami. We had the Ellen von Unwerth exhibition, which was a series of images that Ellen shot at my ranch. We have this community called the ‘Savage Family’ located in California. It’s a queer community where we have no boundaries, no limitations, no judgement. We all accept one another. So she came out here and documented one of our gatherings, and we exhibited the images in Miami. And during that time we did a closing party for Miami’s SoHo House with A Club Called Rhonda. So it was these two collaborations that I was primarily focused on. I wasn’t really involved in a lot of the other Art Basel performances.”
Dino Real, Bashir Naim, Love Bailey, Ryan Page & Simon Seapony
How was Basel different or similar to your past performances?
“For Basel, we wanted something that felt like a human disco ball. I’ve always had this metaphor for life where we are vessels; we are reflecting light on one another, and each of us is a mirror reflecting that light to each other. I had this old suit that I’d glued mirrors to in my grandmother’s house back when I was growing up, and I never finished it. So for me, it was to bring this costume to life; to bring this disco ball to life from the birth place of something that happened in my childhood. It was a way of reflecting this light and this unconditional love that I had experienced growing up, and giving it back to a community of people that were around me during that performance. That was my goal.”
Is there a line that you draw between your styling work and performance art?
“Of course if a client is requesting something specific of me, I’m able to tailor to their needs, but if you leave me up to my own devices, I’m an all expressive being. Everything that is coming from within. I download information from the universe and I’m able to execute it because there are no barriers, because there are no boundaries, and because I’m able to do what I need to do to execute the vision. It’s an extension of me. It’s an extension of the universe. It’s omnipresent. It’s not even me. I’m inspired by so many people as well; I’m inspired by the family members of the Savages. Every one of them is a creative vessel, and and we all share the light as well. It’s just a melting pot of love”
How do you develop the themes conveyed in your work? Do you draw from your own life, social politics, from your friends’ experiences, from art?
“It’s hard to put a finger on one, but I can explain it like this: in the process, while I’m creating, I’m able to go back in time into a nostalgic place in which I was able to feel loved, or feel creation. I’m able to pull references from those moments in time and mix them with what’s happening now, which is a zeitgeist of our community; maybe it’s a break-up, maybe it’s a garment that inspires me, maybe it’s a person that inspires me, maybe it’s a story that I’ve heard recently, and I’m able to mesh those two together and give you what you see.”
There is a certain timelessness to your artwork. Is there a certain era that inspires you?
“I was blessed enough to be raised by my 90-year-old grandmother, Betty Bailey, who was a showgirl. Growing up, she shared with me all the movies from the 1940s, so I’m privy to that time period of glamour and excess and beauty and liberation and the silver screen. As an artist, I pull my references from that time period when Hollywood was thriving, and glamour was decadent, and your fantasy was honored, and people explored their fantasies.”
How did you begin constructing a performance art piece?
“For every piece I set out with an intention. With the Savages, before we go onstage, we talk about our intentions and why we’re here, what our purpose is. It’s so easy for people to get lost these days, and to forget why they’re here, and what light is driving them. My mission is to just center us, and to ground us before we go out on stage. I’m kind of like a traveling gypsy, and I collect wayward children along the way. However, everybody that I know in my community is very organic. The way we met was very serendipitous and it really is a meshing of souls and of people who are meant to be together; a magnetizing of energy.”