Northern California has been rich in husband-and-wife artist pairings.
Notable couples include Helen and Alan Post, Jorjana Holden and Robert Else, Suzanne Adan and Mike Stevens, and Betty and Clayton Bailey, who are having a joint show at b. sakata garo in midtown Sacramento.
The Baileys, who are in their 70s, met in junior high school and have been together since. Clayton, who had a major retrospective at the Crocker Art Museum last year, is known for his humorous three-dimensional works including robots, ray guns, exploding pots and "scientific" wonders made by his mad-scientist persona. Betty is a self-taught artist whose drawings of art-world habitués have a charming childlike quality.
Clayton Bailey is showing all new work at b. sakata garo: a series of human and animal sculptures made primarily of copper objects found in thrift stores.
Decidedly odd but also unexpectedly elegant, they range from a rocket man and a "Regal Eagle" to an ornate "Bubble Bottom Bug" and a sexy vixen dubbed "Lady Lips." They are magnificently crafted pieces that are not robots per se, but combine machinelike elements with animal parts.
"Lady Lips" is a winsome woman whose breasts protrude comically. She has a coffee-pot head and wears fancy boots that add to her allure. "Bubble Bottom Bug" is an odd insect made of copper vessels whose pointed beak gives him a dangerous aspect. Danger, too, is implicit in the rocket man who blasts off at the entry to the show. The "Regal Eagle" with glass eyes has a startled look. All are absolutely believable creatures despite their eccentric appearances.
Even stranger are a duck-billed creature whose eyes light up and a hulking creature with a hornlike face and a spring rising up before him who looks like something out of Hieronymous Bosch. "Still Man" sits on a copper coil with a green patina of age, and "Propeller Pig" resembles a boar with an airplane prop on his rear end.
No show of Bailey's work would be complete without one of his motion-sensor activated pieces, in this case a "Burping Bowl" that rises up and belches when you stand in a particular spot. It's disgusting but hilarious, and one marvels at the skill with which Bailey creates out of clay what might be a stomach with an eyeball on a tentacle.
Betty Bailey's drawings, done in watercolor pencils and paint, line the walls of the gallery. Her first piece, with the appellation "Dogs, Politics, and Art" written at the bottom, portrays a conversation between Roy De Forest and Jack Levine, two of the Baileys' artist friends. It's a rich drawing that captures the flavor of De Forest's art in vibrant colors and patterns.
Also charming are a pair of drawings in which Clayton Bailey appears. In "Homage to Grant Wood," he is dressed as his alter ego, Dr. George Gladstone, an anthropologist who made many of the "discoveries" in Bailey's wacky "World of Wonders" museum.
Much of the show is made up of a series of drawings of nude artists who seem to be participating in life-drawing sessions. Here are naked women and men drawing each other in humorous but also touching ways.
Of these works, Betty Bailey writes: "As I began showing my drawings in art galleries, I thought of how the artist puts his ideas and self out there to be scrutinized and critiqued by the public. I thought of the artist being naked, and that idea led to this series of Naked Artists Drawing Naked Artists."
The most touching work in the show is a scene of breast-cancer patients who have had mastectomies. Above each figure is a heartbreaking statement of how breast- cancer survivors who have lost their breasts feel. Though she has not had breast cancer herself, Betty Bailey knows many women who have, and she channels their thoughts for us in a moving tribute to these survivors.
BETTY BAILEY AND CLAYTON BAILEY: DRAWINGS AND COPPER SCULPTURES
When: Noon-6 p.m., through Nov. 3
Where: b. sakata garo, 923 20th St., Sacramento
Information: (916) 447-4276