Salon becomes an art gallery with GTCC exhibit

by Amy Kingsley

When you walk inside Bailey’s on Elm, a couple things hint that the salon is a stylish place: the quiet sound of scissors, expertly wielded, and the metal chandelier that catches the sunlight in foyer.

In addition to their appreciation for design, the owners of the salon have started to branch out into fine art as well. The salon has started featuring the work of up-and-coming local artists alongside their array of spa services.

The current exhibition is the third for the fledgling alternative venue and features the work of Helena Sanders and Tristin Miller. Salon owner John Bailey said the notion to hang art came from Robin Baker, an art instructor at GTCC who wanted a place to showcase her students’ work. The first opening brought about 100 visitors to his salon, which opened early this year.

“John and I both really like art,” said co-owner Wanda Bailey, “and we really like promoting art.”

So far the collaboration between artists and stylists has been productive for both sides. Artists featured in the inaugural show sold seven pieces, and the Baileys themselves have become patrons. They have purchased pieces from each of the first two shows, including “Jomon Quilt,” a textile sculpture designed specifically for the space by Laurie Weisner-Phillips.

Miller, who used to work for John Bailey, approached her former boss about showing some of her work. His assent was a bit of a leap of faith since John Bailey hadn’t seen her work before. She then joined forces with Sanders, a graduate of Skidmore College who has been living in Greensboro for about a year.

“People have been really surprised and really appreciative of how things move through the space,” Miller says.

The interior of Bailey’s on Elm mixes the rich colors of the old world with the airiness and sleek design of the new. The salon’s bold, corrugated walls and gallery lighting create an exquisite venue for viewing two-dimensional art.

The salon also supplies a ready-made audience beyond opening night. Clients who come in for regular color, haircuts or pedicures notice and appreciate the rotating décor.

“This is a functional space,” Miller said. “So people are going to consistently see the work.”

On a slow Wednesday afternoon John Bailey touches up the highlights on a client seated in the first chair of several lined up in a row on the left side of the room. One of Miller’s works leans against the wall. In each of the successive stalls works by either Miller or Sanders offer clients something other than their own reflection to ponder while having work done.

Miller’s work – much of it self-portraiture – is figurative and rendered in a variety of media, including pastels, oils, graphite and spray paint. Sander’s work, on the other hand, features abstract renditions of insects depicted with thick, swirly oil paints. Miller said she approached Miller about the show because she thought the combination of their work, however different, would be the right mix for the space.

The exhibition at Bailey’s is the first show for both artists in Greensboro. Bailey’s on Elm joins a handful of other alternative spaces and galleries cropping up in Greensboro that are devoted to new artists. Some spaces, like Tate Street Coffee, New York Pizza and the Green Bean have been showing newer artists’ work for years. Others, like The Space on Tate Street and the Flying Anvil, have just opened their walls recently.

The shows have helped acquaint the Baileys with local artists and in turn given some young artists an opportunity to show their work in prime downtown real estate.

“It’s been a learning experience for us, too,” John Bailey says.

Bailey installed gallery lighting in his salon and enlisted the help of an interior designer to place and hang the work. He’s working on a finalizing a schedule for next year, so artists will know when to submit work. For the next show, John Bailey is working out the best place for a sculpture.

As for Miller, the show prompted her to complete one large painting placed on the back wall that had been a work in progress for two years. The painting is a self-portrait, the canvas split into to scenes like film stills at a scene change. She finished four paintings specifically for the show out of about 13 that are hanging. Sanders has about 10 pieces in the show, many of them diptychs.

The show runs through October. After that the Baileys will turn the walls of their salon over to another group of young artists. As for the two artists, this show has inspired them to vie for more shows around town. So expect to see paintings by Miller and Sanders hanging at a coffee shop – or gallery – near you sometime soon.

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