Title of Work
Date of Work
35mm color slide
Art & Design Study Collection: James Smith Pierce Collection
UND Art Collections Repository
Born in Brooklyn, New York, James Smith Pierce received his PhD in art history from Harvard University. During his career as a professor, Pierce also became an accomplished artist, whose artworks were included in important exhibitions (including a show on land art at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC) and books on contemporary earthworks and site-specific sculpture. Pierce was also a photographer, exhibition curator, and art collector.
About E.M. Bailey:
Born in the small town of Flovilla, Georgia in 1903, Eldren "E.M." Bailey was educated to a third-grade level before leaving home to work on the railroad. Bailey claimed that while passing through Atlanta in his railroad days, he had seen a young girl in her yard beside the tracks and decided to jump off the train and introduce himself. She and Bailey would ultimately marry and spend the rest of their lives in that house next to the train tracks.
In 1942, he started working as a gravedigger and made tombstones. In his free time, Bailey began the construction of an outdoor sculpture garden. As a self-professed “good Christian man”, Bailey’s first constructed outdoor piece was a 9-foot crucifix that he completed in 1945.
These concrete sculptures acted as a reflection of his values, the trouble of the times, and contemporary historical events.
Many of the sculptures in the garden also reflected African American funerary traditions, as urns, guard dogs, and other traditional symbols were incorporated into this space. Bailey commemorated historical figures such as John F. Kennedy after his death by creating a large sculpture to act as a memorial. Bailey claimed that he wrote the government about a proposed monument and, after failing to hear back from them, he set out to make his own. His final outdoor sculpture was a memorial to Henry Aaron hitting his 715th home run. Bailey finished the sculpture the same night that the historic event took place.
Bailey died in 1987 at the age of 84. A handful of his smaller sculptures are displayed in different museums, but most of his larger works have vanished from public view.
Photograph of detailed bird feathers sculpture.
Original slide in very good condition. Digitally preserved 2020.