Art Lies, Volume 27, Summer 2000 Page: 77
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by Dan R. Goddard
Frances Bagley's sculptures may not con-
tain life, but they look alive. If the body
is a vessel, then Bagley has made her ves-
sels into bodies. Beginning with the form
and texture of woven baskets, the Dallas
artist transforms these delicate, inter-
laced structures into large, cast bronze
sculptures that refer to the figure. For her
New Era show at the Parchman
Stremmel Galleries in San Antonio,
Bagley arranged her woven figures into
groups suggesting conversation and pos-
ing, a silent party for contemplation.
Wrapped is an elegant evening gown
made from rough, burlap like twine and
cast in blue-green bronze. Coquettish
and coyly dipping, with feminine curves
clearly delineated, Wrapped features a
plunging neckline and exposed midriff,
although the dress is so empty you can
see though it. But Bagley gives each of
her creations character and personality.
She may not be there, but you would
probably consider the woman encased in
Wrapped the life of the party.
However, Bagley is endlessly inven-
tive and rarely repeats herself. Her
Untitled Torso is also a blue-green cast
bronze, but the figure is formed by the
diamond-shaped patterns of a chain-link
fence. It is rugged and upright, suggest-
ing a warrior's chain-mail suit of armor.
Two Piece 2000 is another cast
bronze that might be made from a burlap
bag, but it is split into dress and blouse
forms that appear to bend in and around
each other. There's a sense of psycholog-
ical dislocation; maybe not a split person-
ality, but at least a psyche divided by
indecision or conflicting motives. It's
contrasted with The World 2000, a small,
delicate woman's skull carved in
Styrofoam, covered with paper and then
painted with continents and sailing ships
to resemble an antique globe.
Two Woven Figures, one standing
and one sitting, are the largest works in
the show. These female forms-made
with steel tinted red, yellow and green-
appear to be studiously ignoring each
other. Suspended from the ceiling, Louise
and Her Sisters is the most complex
installation, although Bagley showed
only three of the seven pieces usually
included. These brown basket forms
relate to each other in a familial way,
floating above the floor like cherubs.
In a departure from her figures,
Bagley also constructs wall assemblages
from flimsy pieces of wood, paneling and
other found materials that are then cast
into bronze. The Bridge suggests an
abstract Stella painting exploding off the
wall, though the rough-hewn wood and
tattered rags could be fragments an old
barn re-arranged into a strikingly mod-
The casting of Bagley's work by
sculptor Harry Geffert is extraordinary,
revealing every splinter and wormhole of
the wood, every delicate fiber and tangled
strand of the woven figures. But Bagley
said Geffert is closing his foundry to other
artists, and this will be the last pieces she
makes with him.
Bagley has long been a force in public
art in Dallas. She served as a member of the
Art in Public Places Committee for the
Office of Cultural Affairs, and she helped
write the Master Plan for Public Art that
encouraged a "percent for art" requirement
for the City of Dallas construction projects.
In her largest project, she was the lead artist
of the Public Art and Design Program for
Dallas Area Rapid Transit. She oversaw the
design of 20 light rail stations and helped
supervise seven design artists as well as
designing public art for three light rail sta-
But her studio work is both deeply
personal and freely extroverted. Taking
forms traditionally associated with
"women's work," she transforms them
into richly detailed, complex forms that
allude to the human figure, without actu-
ally defining it. Her illusions work on
many levels: baskets that are really
bronze, figures that are really voids, com-
munication that can't be heard. Her ves-
sels for the human body make tangible
the way clothes are used as masks, and
show how the human imagination is
trained to make conceptual leaps, filling
in areas of missing information with con-
jecture and assumptions that may or may
not be true.
Dan Goddard is the arts writer for the
San Antonio Express-News.
The Dance, 2000
48" x 58" x 58"
Courtesy the artist
ARTLIES SUMMER 2000 77
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Kalil, Susie & Bryant, John. Art Lies, Volume 27, Summer 2000, periodical, 2000; Houston, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228057/m1/79/: accessed April 22, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; .