A SALUTE TO CORLETTE T. BAYLOCK
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1992
Mr. STOKES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Mr. Corlette T . Baylock , a man of exceptional and unique talent who resides in my congressional district. Although a banker by training, Mr. Baylock is now recognized worldwide for his artwork which ranges from the whimsical creations he displays on pistachio shells to the panels he designs as advertisements for large companies and the beautiful works of pointillism that he displays in renowned galleries throughout this country.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have a constituent like Corlette T . Baylock . He is an outstanding citizen whose contributions to the art world and to the community of Cleveland are matched by few. I would like to share the following article about Mr. Baylock that recently appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and I hope my colleagues will join with me in honoring this man of exceptional talent and commitment.
(BY KAREN FARKAS) Cleveland.--True Love Bey looked quizzically at Corlette T . Baylock when he stopped her on Euclid Ave. and said he was going to decorate a pistachio nut shell for her.
But the 9-year-old's skepticism turned to amazement and she smiled shyly as Baylock used a pen to transform two shells into clown and bear faces. He autographed the backs and slid them into an envelope, which True Love clutched as she continued down the street.
Baylock has found a way to turn a mundane nut shell into a child's joy and a work of art.
And the effect his work has on young and old alike is one reason his suits and power ties from a 20-year banking career hang unused in his closet.
Baylock , 47, of Cleveland Heights, now works in jeans, T -shirt and brown wing-tips left over from his banking days. He says he realized art provided a satisfaction he never received in the corporate world. And although people may say art is not a stable career, Baylock points to his last two jobs, lost when banks either downsized or closed.
Today, the serious side of his career is creating works in pointillism, in which he uses dots for portraits or evocative pictures of intertwined figures signifying unity. And his whimsy is evident in his nut art--in which the beige shells become detailed faces for cards, pictures, crowd scenes and personalized items.
His work is displayed worldwide, yet his greatest joy is spending time with schoolchildren to explain how to decorate the shells and the importance of a career. Today he will transform red pistachio nut shells into ladybugs for BugFest '92 at the Garfield Park Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks.
`Pointillism afforded me the opportunity to think deep, but all my life I have been able to make people laugh and feel good,' Baylock said.
Baylock had no concrete career goals as he grew up in New Jersey. `I was the class clown and wasn't serious about anything,' he said.
In 1964, following graduation, he joined the Army and was sent to Vietnam as a company clerk in a psychological-warfare company.
`When we hit the beaches, the front of the boat opened up, and while everyone was running to the shore carrying guns and rifles, I had a typewriter,' he said.
He was stationed with the 25th Psychological Operations Detachment in Pleiku, the central highlands in South Vietnam. Two of the 25 members of his company were artists who drew propaganda literature eventually dropped by plane.
`I'd watch them every chance I could and was intrigued how they made every line count,' he said.
He bought some pastels while still in Vietnam and said the encouragement of his friends led him to think he had some talent. He returned to Indianapolis, where he had been stationed, after his discharge.
`I took only two art classes, beginning drawing and beginning watercolor,' he said. `I wanted to take more courses and had every intention to, but I needed money, so I worked.'
In 1967, he worked in various jobs at a health club. A club member who was a hospital administrator offered him a job. `He liked the way I handled people and hired me to be a supervisor at his hospital,' Baylock recalled. He worked for the administrator, including in Florida, until 1970, when he returned to Indianapolis to take a job as a bank supervisor.
He moved to Cleveland in 1979 to work at the former Union Commerce Bank, which became Huntington National Bank. `I eventually was operations officer,' he said. `I had no technical expertise, but liked to work with people.'
About nine years ago, Baylock was doodling on a pad as he talked on the phone at work when he began creating pictures using dots.
While only his friend knew of his work, in 1989 local artist Malcolm Brown asked him to exhibit in the Cain Park Arts Festival.
`I got some stuff framed, and while other artists had tents and racks, I propped my pictures against park benches and tree roots,' Baylock said.
He said he did not know how to price his works, but believed $200 was good for one piece that had taken him a couple of months to complete. `It was the first thing sold and I thought, `Damn!' he said of the idea that he could make a living from his art.
At the time he was perfecting his pointillism, he was also working with pistachio nuts. `I was in a doctor's office about nine years ago playing with kids and had eight shells in my pocket,' he said. `They were bored, so I used a pencil and drew funny faces on the shells. They put the shells over faces in magazines and had a great time.'
About three years later, he sent a pistachio family portrait to his sister in New Jersey. The faces were more detailed, and her friends loved it and wanted one for themselves, he said.
As his fledgling art career consumed more time, he came to a crossroads in his business career.
In 1988, he lost his job as Huntington cut back on staff. `That's when I wondered if it really was what I wanted to do,' he said. He was then hired as vice president of operations at First Bank, but lost that position when the bank closed in 1990. He never applied for another job.
`I think eventually I would have quit banking, because the more I got into this, the bank was interfering with my art,' he said.
A year ago, he and six other artists rented a store in the Colonial Arcade, called Studio 26. `My wife, Patricia, was not as excited about it as I was,' he said of his art career. `But now she likes it.'
He said his four children, Corlette Jr., 27, Brant, 23, Brandi, 17, and Bryan, 9, sometimes help color his artwork. `Bryan came home one day and said `You don't have a job, do you Daddy?' he recalled. `He couldn't believe something I enjoyed could be work.'
Matted and framed pictures of whimsical pistachio nut bears, clowns and people in various locations are hung on the studio walls. He will personalize the nuts and place them in situations requested by the buyer.
He also makes rain sticks--sealed cardboard tubes that contain baffles and nut shells. When the stick, covered with canvas and decorated, is turned over, the nuts fall, creating a mesmerizing sound.
While Baylock continues to sell his work at art fairs, he recently completed a commissioned nut-art picture for Kaiser Permanente. The crowd scene of 700 faces included 10 famous Clevelanders, including Arsenio Hall and Paul Newman.
`The sky's the limit,' he said, regarding what he can do with the nut shells. He said he is unaware of anyone doing similar work. `It's a nice thing to give to someone who has everything.'
Although he enjoys eating pistachio nuts, the cost, at about $4 a pound, can be prohibitive and he can never eat enough to supply his art. So friends began donating shells, as do the school children he has met.
In his frequent visits to elementary schools, he emphasizes recycling. One game for children includes a miniature city made of packing material that includes a magnet glued to the bottom of a nut shell. Another magnet on the stick is used below the cardboard streets to `drive' the shell. `It teaches them direction and creativity.' Baylock explained.
He also emphasizes the importance of nurturing all interests. `I tell them it is important to have a dual interest and not put all their eggs in one basket,' he said.
And no matter where he goes, Baylock is never empty-handed.
`Sometimes if I am on my way here and do not have pen or shells in my pockets I go home to get them,' he said.