Bagley, who began painting in 1973, uses current and past experiences on his farm for his paintings of rural Virginia. His memories enable him to chronicle a lifestyle that once sustained many, but today is nearly gone due to the encroachment of cities and urban ways. Bagley is completely self-taught and paints “straight from the heart”.
His work has been included in shows at the Valentine Museum and Meadow Farm Museum in Richmond, the Maier Museum at Randolph Macon in Lynchburg, and the Kentucky Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Bagley’s work is in numerous private collections throughout the United States, as well as various corporate collections including Virginia Power, E.R. Carpenter, James River Corporation, Nations Bank and Philip Morris.
Critics have described Bagley’s work as, “multi-textured and highly original”, and have placed his unique style in the context of regionalist painters of the American mid-century who recorded the struggles of ordinary people.
The people in my life—my family, friends, neighbors—and the land that has sustained and nurtured them have always been at the heart of my paintings. The genuineness of those people, the authenticity of their relationships, and the integrity of their lives in general influenced me and drew me to them. With no pretense of being more than hard-working farmers, my parents and so many other folks like them, never sought the limelight and would never have imagined themselves as being an inspiration to anyone. But they have been—at least to me. And they still are.
The red clay of Southside Virginia has sustained rural families, including my own, for generations. The gently rolling hills appear bleak and barren in winter but yield to plush patches of green by April. Within this setting, life in Southside Virginia has changed through the years and continues to evolve. Small family farms are much rarer than they were a few decades ago. Tobacco fields appear only occasionally and a smaller number of farmers manage fewer but larger farming operations. Log and frame buildings, once essential to the needs of daily living, slowly succumb to nature and neglect. Extensive harvesting of timber reveals forgotten structures, long hidden by towering trees.
Like many others who grew up with rural roots, I have not merely been content to remain where I was first planted, but have wholeheartedly chosen to remain there. So, it is not mere admiration from a distance but a long, intimate relationship with that land and those people that has filled my heart and mind with more images than I could ever paint and more stories than I could ever write. And yet, as long as God grants me the privilege, I expect to continue painting the pictures and writing the words about a place and a time that are too memorable and too vital to disappear.