Annouchka Brochet
2/24 – SOFIA 2016

Brian Dailey

Perhaps no word better characterizes Brian Dailey (b. 1951) than polytopes; 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,” polytopes 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.


Brian Dailey – Bulgaria in Democracy Exhibition

Brian Dailey, from the series Bulgaria in Democracy, 30.5 x 40.5 cm.

On the 25th anniversary of democracy in Bulgaria, the American artist, Brian Dailey, embarked on a photographic journey of the country documenting its political electorate.

Contemporary Art Foundation Presents:

Brian Dailey
Bulgaria in Democracy

Supported by America for Bulgaria Foundation; Embassy of the United States in Bulgaria; Stephan Stoyanov Gallery, New York; Monev Gallery, Sofia; City Art Gallery, Plovdiv

On the 25th anniversary of democracy in Bulgaria, the American artist, Brian Dailey, embarked on a photographic journey of the country documenting its political electorate.   Building on a similar series he conducted  in the United States from 2010 to 2012 and entitled America in Color, he set out to document the broad diversity and character of the Bulgarian voter as it completed its latest national election in the fall of 2014.  The project took him and his team across Bulgaria from its mountains, to its plains and to the shores of this culturally rich nation.

Captured in this series are the full-length portraits of the Bulgarian electorate who used the ballot box as a means to express  their hopes  and desire  for the future  direction  of their  country. 

These  are  the  portraits  of  the  everyday citizen and worker expressing themselves in a portrait that not  only  declares  how  they  voted  in  the  most  recent election, but also expressing something about their own character and identity in the process. Captured through his lens are hunters, waiters, artists, shop owners, factory workers, and more as they express themselves and their identity from a pose that ranges from reflective to the humorous.

Over the course of this project, Dailey took more than 450 portraits  capturing the breadth and depth of a culture whose origins dates back to 5,000 BC. From the Bulgar to the Turk to the Roma and beyond,  he has captured the ethnic character of the nation. His camera was not limited, however, to any particular age group but instead highlights the generational differences of the new to senior voter, as well as the rural and urban individual who makeup the constituents of this country. Of the more than 450 portraits 128 were selected for this exhibition with the goal of maintaining the diversity and character of democratic

Unlike the United  States, Bulgaria is a politically diverse country with many political parties.  In the October 2014 election alone more than 25 parties competed resulting in eight elected to the Parliament. To document this political diversity, Dailey asked the subject of the portrait to declare their political party affiliation by holding a placard, which included the ballot number of their party and color affiliation used on the ballot during this election. While limited to the political parties that won a seat in the parliament, the series nonetheless, offers a colorful and compelling look at the Bulgarian voter and political system at this time in history. While nearly 50 percent of Bulgarian voters decided not to vote, Dailey includes them in the series by having them hold up a black placard to express their decision to abstain.

As democratic Bulgaria looks to the future, the portrait series, which is titled Bulgaria in Democracy, has documented the anniversary of the first 25 years with a compelling look at a country at a crossroads but that now decides its future through the ballot box and the individual right to vote. As one Bulgarian proverb so aptly and succinctly put it: Капка по капка – вир става.

America in colour

Amidst the cacophony of a bitterly polarized political environment in the two years running up to the 2012 national elections in the United States, Brian Dailey embarked on a multifaceted project that defies easy categorization. The visually compelling photographic mosaic that emerged constitutes the culmination of this timely and poignant project about democracy, political diversity, and personal identity. It serves as a color-coded time capsule of the myriad faces of the U.S. populace situated literally and symbolically against a backdrop of the contemporary political landscape.

What began as a modest undertaking in the artist’s studio in Woodstock, Virginia evolved into a project comprising over 1,200 individual portraits taken in twenty states across 20,000 miles of both rural and urban America. Personal acquaintances and total strangers were invited to “perform” before the camera as a way to reflect who they were politically and to voice their character and identity. They were asked to express their political identity through the selection of colored backdrops symbolic of their affiliation: blue and red for the official political parties—Democratic and Republican, respectively—gray for Independent, green for Green Party, and yellow for those who can’t or choose not to vote.

Employing a Spartan setting, full frame, and symbolically colored backdrops, Dailey created space for the participant to construct his or her own personal identity with minimal intervention. While each of the portraits in America in Color is captivating on its own, it is the cumulative project that makes Dailey’s series so compelling. In its hybrid forms—individual portraits, gridded panels,pairings across the pages of a deluxe publication, and life-size video format—Dailey’s project offers a contemporary take on portraiture, translating this genre into a twenty-first-century idiom. We are encouraged through this series to make our own connections with and between these individuals and challenged to look beyond the surface, examining entrenched notions about the relationship between appearance and personal values.

A selection from this larger series is seen here.

Project Jikai

“Thus hath the candle singed the moth.”

–William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.


Like the moth drawn to the light

in this video’s hypnotic dance with death, we are all

irresistibly attracted to danger despite knowing its

potential for negative consequences.  Making an allusion to

Shakespeare’s line in The Merchant of Venice, the moth in Jikai is a metaphor for

political systems and its fluttering around a light bulb is

a meditation on political disintegration. The film is dedicated to the

Japanese filmmaker, Akuri Kurosawa, whose seminal work

insightfully commented on contemporary societal issues. Jikai is in several

private and museum collections; it was screened on multiple

synchronized monitors in New York City in February 2014 as a

featured video in the Times Square Midnight Moment



The brilliant colors of Brian Dailey’s Jikai created a vibrant environment in Times Square for the month of February, 21014. In Jikai, Dailey depicted a moth fluttering about a light bulb against a background transitioning from scarlet to violet. The film referenced Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “Thus hath the candle singed the moth,” as a commentary on how people are irresistibly and dangerously attracted to something they know could lead to their downfall. Dailey has dedicated Jikai to Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, whose seminal work insightfully comments on contemporary issues of people and society.

“Metaphors are often a more powerful form to communicate the challenges and issues facing a society.” — Brian Dailey

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