Art from the heart: SRJC student uses art to change the world

Courtesy of Benjamin Farren
Bailey Farren’s most recognizable piece is her “Choco-Lisa,” fingerpainted entirely with frosting

Jocelyn Mobley, Staff Writer

A chocolate frosting painting of the Mona Lisa? A marshmallow lightbulb?
Bailey Farren, a sophomore fine arts major at Santa Rosa Junior College, is well-known for painting with unorthodox mediums. She’s had two professional art shows before the age of 20, and uses her talents for social advocacy.
Farren grew up loving art and was consistently drawing. She drew so much that her friends would ask her to do, “anything but art.”
Galilee Priest, a childhood friend, explained how Farren’s creativity sets her apart from other artists.
“She was never strictly the paint and canvas type of girl,” Priest said.
Farren’s unconventional artworks include a chocolate Leonardo da Vinci portrait, a self-kissed lipstick portrait of Marilyn Monroe, an Abraham Lincoln portrait formed from writing (and rewriting) the Gettysburg Address and a soy sauce painting of two Japanese children on their way to a World War II internment camp.
Not only is Bailey good at art, but it brings her peace. “I remember once our neighbor let the two of us go through his deceased wife’s crafting stuff and take what we like. We thought that was the best opportunity on Earth. Others would take the junk to the nearest trash, but Bailey was in heaven,” Priest said.
Farren enrolled at SRJC in fall 2013, and had the opportunity to learn from Deborah Kirklin, Donna Larsen and Stephanie Sanchez, all SRJC art instructors. Sanchez expressed how eager Bailey was to learn and become a better artist.
“Bailey has been open to constructive criticism, in fact, she was highly receptive to any suggestions or guidance I could give as a teacher,” Sanchez said.
During the summer of 2014 she earned the opportunity to go to Boston University to take business and art classes. Originally, she didn’t plan on majoring in fine arts. When she told her business instructor about her art, he scoffed at her.
“He laughed at me and said, ‘You can’t do anything in fine arts,’” she said.
With her spunky personality, Farren took that as a challenge.
At first, she wanted to work with an orphanage in Nepal, but her plans fell through when her correspondent had a family crisis. She then met a woman who was on the board for Alkare, a non-profit that aids orphanages in Africa.
To help raise funds for Africa, she had her first professional art show at her church and, to her surprise, it raised the money she needed.
In the summer of 2014, Farren went to eight different orphanages in Zambia and Uganda. She taught children to enjoy making art with the supplies they had. Using her knowledge of unusual mediums, she taught orphans how to utilize their used cooking charcoal to make beautiful art.
The children in Africa were joyful despite their difficult living situations. Many of them had nothing, yet they eagerly gave their artwork back to Farren. It meant a lot to her because they had so little.
Even though Farren was motivated to prove her business instructor wrong, she said it was because of her trip to Africa she wanted to make a difference in the world through art.
In fall 2015, Farren decided to add debate to her incredibly busy schedule. It’s her biggest inspiration. “Debate has opened my eyes to the real world,” she said. She likes to open minds to the world and hopes her art will bring people to awareness.
This spring break, Farren launched a new business to raise money to go to the island of Lesbos in Greece to work with refugees by printing her art on T-shirts. She said many college students can’t afford a $200 – $300 painting, but they can afford a $20 T-shirt. She wanted to go to Lesbos to work with the refugees from Turkey.
“Lesbos is about four miles south of Turkey and the refugees are floating on rafts and literally washing up on the shore,” she said.
“When I’m there, I wouldn’t be doing art with people. I want to use my art as my means to get there, because I want to use my art to raise awareness of the situation that’s going on there,” she said.
Her goal is to move people with art. She wants everyday American citizens to be empathetic of unfortunate people. She believes through her art she can make people understand and help make a change in the world.
“I can’t feign ignorance and look away from the crises that are happening in other parts of the world,” Farren said.
Not only does she want to better herself, she also wants to help others grow. Adam Gockel, a close friend of Bailey’s, said it’s her drive that separates her from other artists. Many people talk about their dreams, but Bailey puts hers into action.
“There is an energy that’s in her soul that can be seen from the first time you meet her. She acts as though this is how everyone is suppose to live, and she calls you to the same level,” Gockel said. Instead of convicting someone for not living their life to the fullest, he feels that Bailey encourages others to live up to their potential. “[She] makes you see how much you can still achieve,” Gockel said.
One of Farren’s favorite paintings, named “Penthouse,” is a self-portrait of her sitting on a bed overlooking a skyline of a city. She said, for some people, that’s all they will see. She, on the other hand, describes this painting with an unusual combination of fear and hope for the future.
“I was able to express the fear I had, but my goal was to express the hope in it,” she said.
Last semester, she said, there was a photography show at SRJC that gave insight for what it’s like for people with poor working conditions here.
She said she wants her art to give people the opportunity to “look deeper into a situation and see the beauty and hope in the midst of an exhausting life.”
She believes it’s her role in society to teach people to become more knowledgeable about current events. “And that’s why it’s not a useless major. I can use art to act and to bring attention to other people about real life situations, situations people don’t want to acknowledge, things people don’t want to look at,” Farren said.