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Perhaps no word better characterizes Brian Dailey (b. 1951) than polytropos, the first adjective Homer applies to Odysseus in the Odyssey. Translated from the Greek as “well traveled,” “much wandering,” and, in a more metaphorical sense, as “the man of many twists and turns,” polytropos suitably describes Dailey’s life journey and its many peregrinations. As a student at Otis Art Institute (MFA, 1975) and in his ensuing art career in Los Angeles, Dailey participated in the pioneering creative experimentation defining the prolific artistic milieu in California in this era. His early career launched him on a path that—before bringing him full circle back to his roots as an artist—took him through a twenty-year interlude working on arms control and international security. These unusual experiences, which he approached with the same curiosity that has driven his art, provide a fertile source of inspiration in his idiosyncratic creative practice. As the artist states:
There is art in politics and politics in art. Throughout my life two passions stimulated my curiosity: art and international politics. The tension between two interests generated my intense inquiry into these seemingly diametrically opposed professional fields. In the context of my career, the wanderings through a labyrinth of artistic and intellectual encounters provided a lifetime of eclectic experiences, which, in turn, supplied a bounty of material for my art.
With two-and-a-half decades of in-depth engagement with the issues my current work addresses, I am able to explore them with direct experience and knowledge. In that context, I am exploring the legacy of my odyssey in government and business as a way to relate those experiences to contemporary social and political issues and as a means through which to create contemplative works of art.
Based in the Washington DC metropolitan area, Dailey is an artist whose work in a range of media, including photography, film, installations, and painting, draws on his multifaceted life experiences. His conceptual and performance based art expands the parameters of the mediums in which he works, defying easy categorization. Engaging with the social, political, and cultural issues of our times, his work is informed by his unusual background and unconventional evolution as an artist.