The Works of Dr. Art Bacon, Artist & Scientist ~ Talladega, Alabama
Art Bacon is known by many as an artist, educator, and scientist. However, art has always been his passion. He was born in West Palm Beach, but lived in several places, in and out of the state of Florida. Recognized early, his talent for art won him many prizes and awards long before he graduated from high school.
That September following high school, Bacon went to Talladega College and majored in biology. However, art became a strongly competing involvement. Although a science major, Bacon enhanced his artistic skills by enrolling in art courses as electives, which were taught by David Driskell. One year, he earned the College’s Armstrong Award for Creative Ability. During his senior year, Bacon was severely beaten for sitting in the “wrong” waiting room, which only increased his determination to succeed at both art and science.
In graduate school, at Howard University, Bacon’s involvement in his passion was limited to illustrations for scientific papers — he had little time for other things. He received the M.S. and Ph.D., in 1963 and 1967, respectively. He is credited with discovering a new species of protozoa.
Following a year as the first Black postdoctoral researcher at the University of Miami, Bacon returned to his alma mater as a science administrator and member of the biology faculty. He also immediately resumed painting and exhibiting his work. Under his leadership as Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Peterson’s Guide to Colleges and Universities included Talladega College in its publication on the “Top Two Hundred Undergraduate Science Programs in the Country. In his first professional art competition, he won second prize and sold thirty works. Since that show, he has exhibited many places and won many prizes. Some of the cities where he has exhibited include; Atlanta, New York, Berkeley, Birmingham, and Washington (DC).
People are Bacon’s subjects of choice; especially, older and neglected people whose experiences show in their faces. In the early days, he worked almost exclusively with ink washes and lines—very little color. He was a minimalist and believed that color interfered with his expression of feelings. He now uses more color and acrylics and a number of other media and techniques—often combining several. However, he still like lines and his palette is still limited. A leading art critic describes Bacon’s work as, “social commentary with a bold vitality.”
Among the long list of owners of Bacon’s paintings and drawings are Bill Cosby, U.S. Congressman John Lewis and Hank Thomas. Institutions include Alabama State University, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Mobile Museum of Art, Heritage Hall Museum, University of Maryland, and Comer Museum. He has also been featured in Southern Living and Lakeside magazines, Black Art in America — an online journal and other publications.
Bacon is now retired from Talladega College and was recently named Professor Emeritus of Natural Sciences and Humanities. He is painting more than ever and occasionally writes and recites poetry.