Last year marked sculptor Abby Bagby’s inaugural participation in Art Con. She was introduced to Art Consipracy by executive team member Courtney Miles who was the curator for Mokah Gallery for five years before passing the torch to Abby. “She introduced me to many of the other executive team members, and I’ve been getting gradually more and more involved with the organization over the past two years,” she says. “And my first experience with ArtCon was so much fun! What really stood out to me was the camaraderie during artist day. Everyone just came to hang out and see what everyone else was making. It was really interesting to have the challenge of working with the square panel too, as I am a sculptor, and I tend to bend the rules in most traditional art-making situations.”
As many artists understand, sometimes it can be challenging to continue creating and sacrificing when life calls and insists on your paying bills, buying cars, affording food… “ArtCon was the one thing that kept me making work my first year out of school,” Abby says. “I spent a year working tirelessly on my thesis exhibition, but after I graduated, I lost my momentum and my job became really stressful, so I had a hard time motivating myself to create. Having deadlines and small one-piece challenges for ArtCon events kept me working until I could figure out how to exist as an artist who also works a day job.” And it’s no surprise she found her way. Abby is an artist and has been from the beginning. Her life would not make sense any other way. “I’ve always done some sort of visual art,” she says. “My dad is a painter, and my mom is crafty, so my siblings and I were always drawing or building something. And watching other artists, like my dad, create something that exists purely to give life to its context, and experiencing work made by old masters and contemporary artists made me want to participate in that on some level, to have a legacy that could outlast my bodily presence.”
Originally from Broken Arrow, OK, Abby didn’t move to Dallas until she decided to enroll in the University of Dallas after high school. She later moved into the heart of the city after she graduated, which is where she currently lives and works. “I am the curator of Mokah Gallery, in the Life in Deep Ellum cultural center and have been for the past year and a half,” she says. She is also a working sculptor, a cosmetologist (although, “I don’t do much with that at the moment, mostly editorial work right now,”) and a stylist for more than five years, “which informs my art quite a bit.” In fact, Abby didn’t get to study art as much as she wanted to in high school, because she was going to cosmetology school for half of her day, “so I studied art in college, where I realized visual art was much more than a hobby for me.”
And now, Abby most assuredly has moved her art beyond the status of “hobby,” having showcased pieces in, not only multiple Art Con events, but also Mokah, Fort Work, 500X and University of Dallas galleries. “My inspiration now comes from my immediate context (those existing right around me),” she says. “from psychology, especially the psychologies of suggestion and horror. I am fascinated by the surrealist movement, especially surrealist sculpture, and its reiterations in contemporary art.” In fact, her fascination with surrealism was chiefly influenced by Swiss surrealist Meret Oppenheim. “She had fabulous style, and made work with the best artists of her time, regardless of gender inequality,” Abby says. “And she made people think. That’s one of the best parts about surrealist sculpture. It doesn’t answer your questions, and it doesn’t even necessarily let you know that you should be questioning reality. You just start to have a feeling that something isn’t quite right.”
And thus is demonstrated yet another instance of Art Con’s tremendous contribution to the Dallas art scene. “ArtCon embodies the part of art-making that engages culture, and they do it in such a tangible way,” Abby reminds us. “Artists are commentators on our time and our society in its present moment, and ArtCon is there, making a real difference in our communities through artists.”
Catch this quirky young artist, and bid on her sure-to-be fascinating piece at Art Con 11, TONIGHT!
Written by: Martha Belden