Xenobia Bailey has a personality larger than life itself, an unabashed joie de vivre that transcends even cyberspace. It was during her studies in ethnomusicology at the University of Washington where she became fascinated by the craftsmanship and sounds of the cultures of Africa and Asia. She creates objects of adornment as well as massive installations for an alternative lifestyle in the aesthetic of Funk. I felt an instant connection with her and her fiber art the first time I saw pictures of her installations. My living experiences include Africa and Asia, the very places she has researched. As an ethnographer and cultural activist, Xenobia studied music from a sociological and anthropological perspective. I too am an ethnographer but prefer empowerment and emancipation through education, shunning activism. In Xenobia's words: "I make art to stay sane . . . to be able to reflect on myself. It is therapeutical, a way of identifying, of becoming visible". I am nodding my head in agreement.
The connection between Funk music visuals and Xenobia's Mandalas cement her brilliant vision of the Mandala as an iconic symbol. Music aside, on a personal level I also experience the shapes of giant incense spirals surrounded by sandalwood smoke and conical non la hats from Vietnam, tapestry crochet and the fez or tarboosh from Morocco, colourful Mandalas used in religious traditions in India, bags full of colour and spices throughout Asia and Africa in the art created by Xenobia. Her work feels like my own living stories.
What also appeals to me is the simplicity of the single crochet stitch and mostly acrylic and cotton yarns she uses in order to create her artwork. The single crochet stitch is not all about Amigurumi, acrylics not all about the cheap and garish. Xenobia's work challenges these stereotypical images and views. Yip, I love her and her art.