While you may not immediately recognize her name, if you follow contemporary art in Santa Barbara, you’ve felt the influence of the late Carolyn GlasoeBailey, the art dealer and former Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB) board chair who died in November 2015 after battling glioblastoma brain cancer. GlasoeBailey was only 46 when she died, and she leaves behind not only her husband, Chris Bailey, but also her 9-year-old son, Matson West Bailey, and many friends, artists, and clients who will miss her vitality, self-assurance, and aesthetic judgment very much. As part of the process of grieving for a woman who was by all accounts an extraordinarily positive force in the contemporary art world, and as a way of moving forward with her legacy, her family has established a foundation in her honor. This exhibit, Fierce Generosity at Porch Gallery in Ojai, continues GlasoeBailey’s work in forwarding the careers of emerging and mid-career artists, and fulfills her wish that this work be carried on after her passing.
As a successful art dealer, GlasoeBailey represented a kind of double anomaly. Not only was she a woman in a scene still dominated by men — she was a prodigy in a world that typically makes people wait a long time before giving them a chance to perform in a leading role. She opened her first gallery when she was just 19 in her hometown of Minneapolis. For five years, GlasoeBailey and partner Kim Montgomery tirelessly promoted the careers of such talented Minnesota artists as Rob Fischer, Todd Norsten, and David Rathman, at the same time developing a strong working relationship with Richard Flood and other influential curators at the Walker Art Center. From there she made her way to Los Angeles, where she met her husband, and then to New York City, where she founded the Dee Glasoe Gallery in 2000. After September 11, 2001, GlasoeBailey and her family began spending more time at their home in Ojai, a mid-century modern house by Kazumi Adachi on the east side of town that they painstakingly restored and filled with fabulous contemporary art.
At Porch, the artists who worked with GlasoeBailey have come together and donated more than three dozen works in her memory. Many of them acknowledge the tragic circumstances of the show, and none more viscerally than Chris Larson, whose black-and-white digital print “Celebration/Love/Loss” (2013) shows the frame of a ranch house in flames. The catalog includes an introduction by MCASB Executive Director and Chief Curator Miki Garcia, who credits GlasoeBailey with bringing her to Santa Barbara, and short statements about GlasoeBailey from each of the artists in the exhibition. In his contribution, painter Peter Rostovsky remembers a time when GlasoeBailey confessed that she dreamed of being an air traffic controller because she loved being responsible for high-stakes decisions. He comments on this by writing that “she always did seem dauntless and able to cut through complex situations with a remarkable sense of courage, poise, and reason. I know that I am not the only one to say that there was no one better to have by your side or in your corner than Carolyn. She had your back.”
The theme of this show is the light that this woman threw onto the talents and achievements of others, and it is clear from the results that in this way, she still has her friends’ backs.