Scarlett Bailly's fascination for telling ancient stories through her art

Scarlett Baily is a Chicana muralist, painter, and illustrator with studios in Mexico City, and San Diego, CA. Her work explores and celebrates the heritage and popular culture, easily identified by long sinuous lines and gestural minimalism with pops of color. Through Mezcal Verde, Baily shares her vision of humanity as the warriors we are, with an ancestral power living a contemporary life.

MEZCAL VERDE: How did your interest in art start? 

SCARLETT BAILY: I was born in El Paso, Texas, and grew up in San Diego, CA with my Mexican family. These border areas are filled with murals of Chicano heroes, Aztec Legends, and incredible graffiti. As a child, I loved to look at them from the car window and began to copy them into my folders. I dreamed of becoming a muralist one day to share my art with the public in a monumental way. 

MV: How does your project start as Scarlett Baily? 

SB: Opening an art studio has been my dream since I was a child. Everything was an outcome of following my heart, throwing myself into the unknown, taking risks, experimenting, and sharing my art with the public without asking permission. My studio was born in New York, in the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, in 2010. Back in Brooklyn, I began to make series of life-size portraits of my friends. I was so excited to show them to the world! Without a gallery that represented me, I took the street! I used to cut out the illustrations and pasted them on abandoned walls in huge collage installations. One time, I made an urban art installation for Bushwick Open Studios, and the art directors at DKNY discovered me! They took my art as the theme for the window displays of the season and invited me to paint live portraits in the window. In 2014 I was invited by the curators of Salón Acme to do a residency in Mexico. I spent an unforgettable week portraying artists, musicians, chefs, designers, etc. I finally felt connected to my Mexican roots. A few months later I decided to expand my studio to Mexico City!!

MV: What is the part of your work you enjoy the most? 

SB: I have always been an observant who is pleased to share stories. Art tells stories and opens doors to many worlds. One day I'm painting at Central de Abastos, another day at Palacio de Hierro or Madison Avenue. I love the bridges that art builds. Art is universal, it empowers, celebrates, and creates empathy between distant communities. I love having this position as an artist. What I like the most are my portrait sessions. It is an intimate exchange, with a stranger, and they always relax and confess their love stories, dreams, etc. Every person I draw ends up being a friend. And of course what excites me the most is painting murals, creating on this scale is a discipline for the public that becomes an adrenaline rush. When my art has this audience it takes an extraordinary life. 

MV: What are the techniques you use and why? 

SB: I have explored all the techniques - each one for me has its periods. But I have always been faithful to painting. I love mixing inks, the sound of the brush touching the surface, the sensation of creating a brushstroke takes me to another dimension and I feel that I am leaving a mark on the world. In my personal work in the studio, I use a lot of oil, for my public art I use acrylic, spray and wheatpaste. For me, the most important thing is to be able to work fast to reach a current energy, with dynamism and movement. The immediate graphic of my style invites any viewer to participate and celebrate heritage, tradition and belonging in my work. 

MV: What is the narrative of your work? 

SB: In this age of globalism, I believe it is essential to seek and celebrate our roots. The nuances of our culture are the things that make us unique, and special - we cannot let them fade with modernity. Art can take apart racism and end discrimination. I am multicultural and always felt a polarity pressing me to choose between one culture or the other rather than embracing both. So, my murals input various narratives into the canon. Through my work, I can address the frameworks that have kept artists like me in the shadows and confirm that there is room for everyone. The aim of my work seeks a positive impact on a more inclusive art world. My practice urges the public to see muralism beyond decoration and rather become a platform for speaking out. In addition, they will all allow aspiring artists to flourish and communicate their narratives on a large scale.

MV: Even though it is not a piece specially made for Mezcal Verde, which is the inspiration behind the label you chose? 

SB: Diving into Mexican mythology, I found many powerful female figures. I fell in love with Coatlicue, she is a Goddess who sparks fear, but also empowers. She is gentle but terrifying at the same time. Coatlicue represents duality, she is the mother of everything that is born from the earth, in other words, the goddess of fertility, abundance, power and creativity. I wanted to bring it to life outside the National Museum of Anthropology, and bring it into our contemporary life - because its power lives in us! We are warriors! This image awakens our ancestral power and illuminates the magic that we carry within.