My current abstract painting language was developed while I was displaced for 70-days during the 2018 Kilāuea eruption on Hawai`i Island. My perspective on life and art was transformed as the earth violently shifted and forced magma through its surface. This experience connected me emotionally to the climate refugee diaspora involving trauma, impermanence, loss, and ultimately, healing. For me, the ocean was a space for healing, specifically surfing, which was a main vehicle for gaining an awareness of life below the sea surface. I was not always accustomed to coastal living. I was born and raised in Nebraska (a triply landlocked state) and didn’t experience the ocean until I was in my late teens, yet it has become the most important natural connection in my life. My series, Rainforest of the Sea and Wipeout, explore the near-shore ocean environments, such as point breaks, coral reefs, and geological features. I use color, texture, and line to suggest movement, change, and energy. For me, the turbulence of water reflects life’s ups and downs, and the fragility of natural systems speaks to the age of the Anthropocene. The paint flows naturally with gravity’s force, as I shift the canvas between horizontal and vertical orientations, encouraging puddles, splashes, and bleeding of thinned acrylic pigments. I chose a more direct approach when using palette knives, spray bottles, and repurposed tools to create movement and textures that represent change and energy. Often, the exposed edges of my substrate surface reinforce fragmented memories held within the paint both above and below the surface.


Bailey Ferguson earned a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Denver and a BFA in Communication Design from the Metropolitan State University of Denver. She studied at Studio Art International in Florence, Italy. Recent honors include a solo exhibition, Under the Liquid Veil, at the Wailoa Art and Cultural Center in Hilo, Hawai’i; an Artist-At-Sea Residency sailing from Honolulu to Fiji aboard the Research Vessel Falkor with the Schmidt Ocean Institute; and Ferguson’s work was recently featured in the Proceedings of the Academy of the Natural Sciences. Outside of her studio practice, Ferguson is an avid surfer, snorkeler, and soon-to-be certified diver.