Themes of service and community inform my work. As a visual storyteller, my narratives trigger memories through depictions of familiar scenes: common place subjects engaged in every day rituals.
As a war artist I focused on themes of healing and service through my portrayal of Canadian military medical personnel caring for the wounded in a war zone, Afghanistan. These acts of service are echoed in my more domestic settings on the home front: the ecclesiastic milieu, beauty salons, charity shops and restaurants. The figures who inhabit these works promote the social bonds formed within these environments.
Through my art I strive to highlight the decency of ordinary people and to reflect the efforts and strengths of the citizens and non-human animals who enrich our community.
Karen Bailey paints people. Her Official Portrait of the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General of Canada, was unveiled at Rideau Hall, Ottawa in September 2012.
Many of her works feature behind-the-scenes workers and under-recognized people. As an appointed military artist (CFAP 2006-07), she traveled to Afghanistan in June 2007 to document military medical personnel at the Role 3 Hospital in Kandahar. "Triage" is the resulting body of work, over two years in the making.
Past series have highlighted the working life of servers and hairstylists. “Blanche Dot Doris”, focused on older women who prepare food for church functions while her “Marjorie” paintings celebrated the life of friend and former neighbour, Marjorie Gray.
A graduate of the Reigate School of Art & Design, England, her past work has included courtroom drawing for Global Television, book illustration for Appletree Press, U.K., heraldic art and calligraphy. Twice she has received the prestigious Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grants for drawing and painting.
Karen Bailey’s diverse career spans three decades. She first exhibited in 1981 when her detailed heraldic art appeared at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London as part of Heraldry Now 1975-1981. Most recently, her largest canvas to date, Blast Victims, was included in the War & Medicine exhibition at the Canadian War Museum.
A painter of people, through her art she seeks to represent beauty, honesty and most importantly, humanity.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2015 RIA Salon, Ottawa, “Raising Stanley” (Pilot project) with Storyteller Kim Kilpatrick
2015 Nuit Blanche Ottawa/Gatineau, Guide Dogs Dance, Rectory Art House
2012 Rideau Hall, Official Portrait of the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
2010 Rideau Hall, selected works from "Triage" (June)
2010 Dale Smith Gallery, "tea/leaves"
2010 Ottawa School of Art, "Triage
2008 Dale Smith Gallery, Ottawa “Blanche, Dot, Doris”
2006 IPO Gallery, Ottawa “Marjorie”
2005 Ottawa Art Gallery, Rental & Sales Service, Ottawa “Are You Being Served?”
2001 Fulford Gallery, Ottawa
1989 Mount Street Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
1988 Artscourt, Ottawa
1987 City Hall, Ottawa
Selected Joint Exhibitions
2003 Here + Now Gallery, Toronto (with Laurie Zinkand-Selles) “New Directions”
2001 Visual Arts Centre Orleans (with Barbara Bailey) “Sisters-Painterly Relations”
1984 City Hall, Ottawa (with George Foster)
Selected Group Exhibitions
2015 Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, Ottawa “Figureworks 2015”
2014 University of Ottawa, Ottawa “Human Rights Art Exhibit”
2013 Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, "Peace - the Exhibition"
2012 The Military Museums, Calgary, AB, “A Brush with War - Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan”
2011 Canadian War Museum, Ottawa,"War & Medicine"
2009 McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, ON “A Brush With War - Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan”
2009 DND Headquarters. Ottawa - Canadian Forces Artists Program 2006-07
2008 ARC Gallery, Chicago USA “Are We There Yet? 40 years of Feminism”
2007 Distill, Toronto “distill cup 07”
2007 Anglican Synod, Winnipeg, Manitoba “Sacred Expressions”
2005 Ottawa School of Art, “Portraits in Circumstance”
2001 Women’s Art Association, Toronto, Trapeze “Imaging the Self”
1991 Nancy Poole’s Studio, Toronto
1990 Soloman Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
1981 Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England “Heraldry Now 1975-1981”
Grants & Awards
2015 Tontine Award (collaboration with Kim Kilpatrick)
2013 Honourary Diploma of Fine Arts, Ottawa School of Art
2010 Council for the Arts Ottawa - Finalist, Mid-Career Artist Award
2007 Ottawa School of Art Emerging New Talent Award
2006-07 Canadian Forces Artist Program (Military artist, Kandahar, Afghanistan)
1995 Ted Marshall Scholarship (Drawing & Painting)
1985 Elizabeth Greenshields Grant (Drawing & Painting)
1983 Elizabeth Greenshields Grant (Drawing & Painting)