February 7, 2007 to March 19, 2007
Chosen from an archive of more than two thousand oil paintings, watercolors and drawings, this is the first comprehensive exhibition of Hella Bailin’s artwork since her passing in 2006. Held at the Kean University Art Gallery from February 7, 2007 to March 9, 2007, it is indeed the first time her artwork is being shown without her personal input. One can imagine the transformation, as these paintings now have to live on their own. The artist no longer can influence the way her own work is perceived. It is the object or painting that causes us to respond. To Hella Bailin’s credit, the work is now free to speak for itself and it is a privilege to begin the dialog with this exhibition.
As curator, I had a very unusual opportunity, to encounter Hella Bailin’s personal collection of works created over a lifetime. Additionally, to ponder the many pieces that were sold, given away or perhaps lost or even destroyed is an interesting process as well. When choosing this show I had the liberty to indulge myself, perhaps connecting with works that had been neglected for decades. I’ll never know which pieces were her favorites, which pieces she thought might sell or which pieces were made in the truest moments when the artist creates out of the very essence of who they are --moments when self-consciousness is replaced with connection --- connection with the greater world, connection with the greater scope of humanness. Bailin knew those moments and captured them most effectively on the small sheets of watercolor paper, and in her sketchbooks in distant lands. Looking at these works you sense the visceral nature of her work. She was in the moment, creating a connection not making a memory. You can imagine her hair blowing in the wind as she quickly touched brush to paper and liquid color. So effectively she brings us to that moment of creativity, capturing the world that many of us will not take time to engage.
Hella Bailin said of herself – Influenced by my surroundings, I draw most of the subject matter from humankind, conveying their moods, feelings and anxieties to the viewer without prejudice or sentimentality, portraying people of all ranks and ages in their environment depicting their activities at work and play.
Bailin exhibited her work extensively in the region winning over 100 awards. She showed many times in New York City at the National Academy of Design, the National Arts Club, and the Lever House. Bailin was a member of many organizations including the National Association of Women Artists, the Audubon Artists, the American Watercolor Society, and the Allied Artists of America. In addition, her work was shown in museums throughout New Jersey including the State Museum in Trenton, the Morris Museum, the Monmouth Museum and the Montclair Museum. Hella Bailin also applied her artistic skills to the illustration of children’s books, and was known for teaching drawing and painting classes and leading workshops.
For most of her life Hella Bailin lived very near what is today, the Kean University campus. She was a beloved member of the community and even taught some classes in the art department. Her influence is felt to this day as people smile and grin at the mere mention of her name. Hella Bailin’s paintings hang at Kean Hall in the President’s office. These particular images depict the Kean family estate when it was still a farm, before anyone had thought the property would one day become the site of a leading institution of higher learning. With such artworks we are politely reminded of our place in history and the continuum of life.
I want to thank the Bailin family for making this exhibition possible. Son Michael, and daughter, Bobbi, generously opened their personal space and made all 32 works in the exhibition available to loan for this show. Sarah Bailin, granddaughter, whose many months of organizing, cataloging, photographing and preserving the family collection represent an amazing effort. Many thanks to the President of Kean University, Dr. Dawood Farahi, the Provost, Dr. Vinton Thomson and the Dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts, Dr. Carole Shaffer-Koros. We appreciate their support for the growing exhibition program and the opportunity to investigate the work and career of Hella Bailin.
Director of University Galleries