Portrayer of Souls – The Art of Bailey Escapule

by Sue Snively

She exudes personality, showing kindness in her eyes, determination in the set of her jaw and subtle humor in the “almost” half smile on her lips. There is wisdom coming from the overall expression on her rugged and wrinkled face. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but the elegance of this lady with her dangling earrings and her creased and folded hat makes for a very attractive portrait. It is a portrait of what it means to grow old gracefully, accepting the wrinkles, the gray, and other affirmatives of the later stage of life.

Bailey Escapule. Photo by Mike Rosso

This unusual portrayal is called “The Goat Seller,” an oil painting produced by Bailey Escapule of Salida. He has a gift for capturing the soul of his subjects either in oil or in sculpture. To look at one of his artistic works is to know the person or the animal he is representing.

There is the stone sculpture of a kit fox. Even though the animal is curled in a ball sound asleep, the lines on his face and the way his ears lay and the way his paws are placed leads one to believe he is having pleasant dreams about the return of his mother or about his success under tutelage of capturing and feasting on his first rabbit. One waits for him to awaken with a yawn and a shake of his head as he anticipates the next adventure in his young life.

One of the major tools of Escapule’s trade is the camera. He carries it with him throughout the towns and wilds of the western landscape and through the villages of Mexico and the cities of Europe and India, capturing in an instant the nature of his subjects. He varies the background by changing the light, color and shadows to enhance the objects of his work but never varies the expression and countenance in the photograph. He works hard to get the picture or sculpture right in terms of design and value, obtaining a good balance of all the elements with stress on texture, color, light and dimension. The image will be what he calls “loose” at first; then he works to essentially tighten the image as he reaches toward finality. It is hard for him to know when each piece is done as he is “having too much fun” with the process to finish. His partner, Rachel Rice, an artist in her own right who produces beautiful utilitarian pottery, is often the one calling a halt to Escapule’s production.

Oaxaca Green, Oil, 8”x10” - 2009

Sometimes Escapule collaborates on Rice’s pottery, engraving his own images on the clay before it is fired and glazed. One example is a stunning rectangular tray with the image of a young girl carved on its face.

The pair owned a gallery in Tombstone, Arizona from 1986 to 1998. Realizing they wanted to broaden their horizons, they began searching for an up-and-coming art town, which led them to Salida which they have called home for over ten years. One of Escapule’s first commissions in this region was the “Dr. Leonardi” bronze statue done for the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center. Out of four sculptors, Escapule was chosen to create the life-sized piece. It is now displayed in front of the new hospital after greeting people for many years at the old hospital on First Street. Dr. Leonardi was considered a local legend as he cared for many area residents over the years and was primarily responsible for saving the hospital for the town of Salida when the Denver and Rio Grand Western Railroad was in the process of shutting it down.

The commission and subsequent sculpture helped Escapule establish a reputation in the area and his work soon became well known. He has received many first place and best of show awards at the Art of the Rockies and the Chaffee County Council of the Arts (AVAC) open award shows.

In one painting of a cowboy, one can almost feel the historical past and live through the character in the artwork; the present rigors of his life, the long days riding the range, the nights beside the campfire, the worry over what the next day will bring.

Or there are the elegant white birds on a pond, so calm the water looks like glass with only the slight ripples created by the movement of the stoic creatures.

There is the redwing blackbird swaying slightly in the wind as he fixes his claws around the stem of grass, waiting for the next insect to land on the bright yellow sunflower beside him.

All of these works speak to Bailey Escapule’s extreme skill in portraying the souls of his subjects.

He currently has work in Gallery 150 in Salida and in Arts at Denver on Gaylord Street. He has also exhibited in a variety of galleries in Chaffee County, CO, Arizona, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Escapule can be contacted directly via e-mail at riscapule@hotmail.com or by phone at 719-539- 0414. Rice shows and sells her work in Earth Song Gallery in Salida, the Mirage Gallery in Moffat, and Stonehenge Art Gallery in Georgetown.

Sue Snively of Buena Vista, who claims to lack artistic talents, enjoys writing about those that have such talents.