CLAYTON BAILEY IN WISCONSIN DURING THE SIXTIES
My Association With Clayton G. Bailey In the Sixties
Outrageous Entertainment By Ceramic and Metal Crafts
"Bailey's friend, Bernard Pyron, who was teaching Art Appreciation at
Wisconsin State University-Whitewater, informs Bailey that Whitewater
is looking for an artist-in-residence. Bailey applies for the
position, and gets it. He receives a Louis Comfort Tiffany Grant, and an American Crafts
Council Research Grant to support his work with salt glazes, and
builds a salt kiln in Pyron's back yard in Whitewater. They discuss
zen and dada, drink ginger brandy and bark at the moon while their
kilns are firing.
( We didn't drink ginger brandy or bark at the moon. One of
my students who was a house painter, Jerry Bell, used to come over at night and
in the winter I fired up my wood stove in my pottery studio, and we often made
reel to reel tapes of us making noises and playing on mouth bows. Rarely we had
beer. Once Bailey made some cardboard cut outs of heads that we put in the
window of my studio above the garage. Bailey later lied that the
the creek, Silvernail, said he was going to have us committed)
(Bailey is talking about salt glazing here. In the winter of 1963-64 we often
fired the salt kiln and when it was up to near 2300 degrees we would
put wet table
salt in small paper cups and throw them into the white-hot kiln. There was
a small explosion and then clouds of gas would billow out all over the area.
I had rented an old house in Whitewater with maybe a quarter of an acre of
land along a creek. My article, The Night of the Great Salt, was about these
salt firings at night. It was published in Quixote, a little literary
In that article I say that a University is like a mad dentist, which
opens the mind
and then slams it shut. Later, Bailey made some Mad Dentist ceramic
I also like Bailey's ceramic and metal objects from the late sixties
or seventies that are part of his satire
on doctors called, "Secrets From a Mad Doctor's Laboratory."
Also in the late sixties and seventies Bailey made ceramic skeletons of
monsters, hodags and other fantastic critters found by his fantasy self,
Dr. George Gladstone, a mad Scientist. I liked these works and the
In The Night of the Great Salt I wrote about the University seen as a Wrecking
Machine, a metaphor which I have used since then in more than one context.
I see surrealism as a Wrecking Machine, a dark art, along with most of
psychology, which is another dark art. A mysterious occult alchemist
figure simply called Fulcanelli,"
is said to have influenced the Paris surrealists of the twenties with his book
Mysteries of the Cathedrals. William Cooper did a broadcast on
Fulcanelli and the Paris surrealists just a few days before he was
killed by the police in Arizona. I have wondered if Bailey knew about
by Fulcanelli, or if Bailey just saw photos of gargoyles, demon dogs,
and the like
as sculptures on Gothic cathedrals, and started making them himself.
Bailey clearly moved into an occultic area in his thinking and crafts.
I broke with him in 2000 when he sent me photos of his Satan
sculptures and said he
was going to use them in his book, Happenings in the Circus of Life (2000).
He said he was going to use excerts from my published article in
called The Tao and Dada of Recent American Ceramic Art in his book.
He also said he was going to use an unpublished article of mine on his
at a ceramics conference in Madison, Wisconsin in 1973 describing his antics
on stage. I asked him not to use them because I did not want my name
associated with his Satanic sculptures. Bailey used both of my
The San Francisco art critic Mark Van Proyen writes in a review of a Clayton
Bailey exhibit at the Joseph Chowning Gallery sometime at least
fifteen years ago
that one of Bailey's jugs bears an uncanny resemblance to writer
Anton Levey, a man who was designated as the "Neil Sedaka of
Satanism..." Van Proyen says
"But there are three other works in this exhibition that delve deeper
into the occult...these pieces are sculptural extrapolations from the
furnaces that are
frequently depicted in alchemical drawings from the seventeenth and
In 1984 I sent Clayton Bailey a draft of my book, The Great Rebellion. The book
is about the several movements that fed into the counterculure of the sixties,
including the drug movement, the hippies, the sex liberation movement, feminism,
the new left, self psychology and the art bohemians. Using Bible texts, I
criticize each of these movements. And so a person who was into the drug,
hippie or art bohemian movements in the sixties - or later in the seventies -
could see The Great Rebellion as a criticism of him or her. Bailey had used
drugs in the sixties and was certainly a part of the art bohemian movement in
the sixties and seventies. The art bohemians were important for the
creation of the counterculture because they established the bohemian
neighborhoods and communities like the Lower East Side which the followers
of the drug and hippie movements later enjoyed. I came to the conclusion
that the art bohemians as a distinct movement fizzled out mostly by about
1990 or earlier and merged with the far left, feminism and political
correctness to some extent. So by 2000 cultural Marxism appeared to
go along with the culture of the artists. The art bohemian leaders
like Bailey became professors
I have here a handwritten letter of May 15, 1984 to me from Clayton G. Bailey.
he says "I have been reading the notes you sent,and in particular about the
paragraph you marked about..."the sin of pride, opposition to Biblical
I don't believe this is the same Pyron I knew in Wisconsin. Have you
become a Jesus Freak? Why? There's lots of mischief to be done. The
Bible is not relevant...people need outrageous entertainment."
Clayton Bailey became a good craftsmen in ceramics and metal. His crafts at times are
"outrageous entertainment" and "mischief." After a few decades the
works of a shock craftsman become less interesting and old hat. So he has to
raise the level of shock in his works. He can go in the direction of the
obscene, and into the psychopathic, schizophrenic and Satanic.
Bailey, however, made robot after robot, which are similar to one another. I am not sure that he gave up on his occult bent and turned almost completely to making robot after robot. Maybe someone who knows his work since about 1990 can tell me. In The Great Rebellion I write about how the art bohemians, or artists
in general, have helped further image obsession in the popular culture, which is a form of
pride. Bailey has that kind of pride. His image is very important to him, and
that in part is why Bailey seems to be interested in the quality and number of
links to him in the Internet search engines. He seems to have control over
the links to him and there are now no spam links under his name. Interesting.
"There's lots of mischief to be done." What kinds of mischief did you
have in mind
Bailey was anti-Christian in the sixties when I knew him in Wisconsin
and at least
as of 2000-2001 he was still anti-Christian, if not more so. This
toward Christianity and the older culture influenced by it is what has informed
some of Bailey's work. His "Ode to the Unconceived," for example, mocks
the anti-abortion stand of Christians, and he shows a lack of common morality
in his slander of Marilyn Monroe in his robot sculpture using her name. Bailey's
derisive attitude toward Christianity is what led him to dislike my 1985 book
The Great Rebellion. he lists it and my 1965 Quixote article on the Night of the
Great Salt in his 2000 book, Happenings In the Circus of Life.
I have thought that Bailey had five or six links to my association with him
put on the search engines. I first saw them in about 2002, and they are still
there. One is to the Night of the Great Salt. Another is to my 1964 Artforum
article, the Tao and Dada of Recent American Ceramic Art, which includes him.
There are others dealing with my association with him.
See the photo down below of Clayton Bailey as Flasher