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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008

Crisp, Clean Colors

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Reginald Baylor has one finished painting and two still in progress hanging on the white brick walls of his basement studio.

Stacks of acrylic paints in Ziploc containers match shaded charts alongside the canvases. A truck driver by trade, Baylor paints on his 10 days off between trips. He says he has always painted, humorously calling himself the original paint-by-number artist.

What is the meaning behind the bright colors in your paintings? Everyone thinks my paintings are about color, but everything is centered around the line—the architectural, sharp-edged line. Now I’ve enhanced the edge even more by using tape. The tape makes a crisp, clean edge, which creates an architectural blueprint that the colors animate.

So the line, the straight edge, is very important? Straight edges are abrasive; not soft, but obtrusive. But because of the color, the viewer is often fooled, deceived. The color makes it appear to be a comfortable setting, or landscape, but when I pick a setting it’s usually because it makes me uncomfortable.

How or why do you choose a setting that’s uncomfortable? I could go through every painting and tell you when it happened and why it happened, why I painted it. That’s why I paint. There was a painting in the show of an elderly man riding a bicycle turning the corner of a street. The photograph was taken at 6:30 a.m. in a retirement neighborhood in Florida. It’s a flash point in life. When that happens, it’s a reflection of what I’m feeling at that moment—the good sides and the bad. I titled that painting Left, Right, Left.

So your titles are important to the painting? My favorite part is the title. A title can open up another dimension to the painting. It may answer questions, open up people’s souls and psyche. The title is about why I painted the painting, and I’m very particular about how I title a picture. They can have double, two different meanings, just like Left, Right, Left.

Could you explain that double meaning? Well, it is about a man making a turn on a corner—he must look both ways: left, right and left. But then there’s another context about what’s always said, the corners we turn in life, and because I’m politically conscious—do we lean left, right and then left? What does that really mean, even politically? What’s comfortable and uncomfortable about left, right, left?

So the viewer should observe your titles and not the color? Because the color is bright, beautiful and animated, it hides the real meaning of my paintings. The color is an instantaneous reaction, a type of work, which is like my own generation. But if you wish to take the time, there’s an undercurrent to the meaning of all my paintings.

Contact Reginald Baylor, or see his paintings, through DeLind Gallery of Fine Art, 400 E. Mason St., at (414) 271-8525 or www.delindgallery.com.