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Posted January 30, 2010 in Member News

Remembering Oscar Wilson Bailey

Oscar Wilson Bailey, 84, native of Ohio and a founding member of SPE, died January 30 and the Brian Center in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. He is survived by his wife, Sarah Bailey, with whom he was married for 64 years; his three siblings, Warren Bailey, Margaret Simone and Gert Torry, all of Ohio; his two children, Susan Stickney of Santa Fe and Dan Bailey of Baltimore, Maryland, and four grandchildren, Sarah and Amelia, Morgan and Rebecca. Oscar was a nationally recognized photographer, known primarily for his innovative use of an antique camera that made long, thin panorama photographs. His work is in the permanent collections of many major museums and in the lives of his many students. Oscar and Sarah came to North Carolina in 1971 when he started teaching photography classes at Penland School of Crafts. In 1983 they bought land in the area and began building their hand-crafted home. During the next 25 years Oscar spent building furniture for family and friends. He installed a Japanese rock garden on his property, designed and built kites, "wind-supported sculptures," as he called them, and flew them from the top of his hill. After obtaining a pyrotechnicians's license, he set off fireworks shows of his own invention that delighted friends and family. A recent reviewer of his life's work commented that it represents "Oscar Bailey's ability to engage seriously in both art and craft without ever appearing to take himself too seriously." A fellow professor and collaborator said recently, "Oscar was a fun and exciting person to be around. He liked to figure out how things worked and then explored how he could integrate these qualities with his ideas." Oscar himself would say: "It's not about education, it's about having fun."

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