Brian Dailey (born August 12, 1951) is an American artist noted for his careers in both art and international relations. His work in a variety of mediums—including photography, film, installations, and painting—engages with the social, political, and cultural issues of our times and is not easily categorized. Dailey’s art reflects his unconventional evolution as an artist and multifaceted life experiences, which include national level involvement in arms control, space policy, intelligence systems, and international security. He maintains studios in Woodstock, Virginia and Carmel, California.
Dailey was born in Pittsburg, California and spent his youth in Santa Monica, California. Dailey attended Ventura College where he developed an interest in ceramic sculpture, shifting the direction of his art career. On the basis of his portfolio, he was accepted directly into the Masters program at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles where he became interested in performance, conceptual art, and video technology. As a student at Otis Art Institute (MFA, 1975) and in his ensuing art career in Los Angeles, Dailey participated in the creative experimentation defining the artistic milieu in California in this era. In his installation works from this period, he explored the role of the artist in the causal process. His performance pieces placed an emphasis on active viewer engagement. Upon graduation from Otis, Dailey began his art career exhibiting his performance and conceptual works in various institutions in Los Angeles and was represented by the Roger Wong Gallery. His work from this period includes painting, sculpture, and performance art, reflecting the pluralistic forms of creative expression and the political and social engagement generated by the Los Angeles artistic community.
In 1981, Dailey’s interest in international affairs and the Cold War led him to pursue a doctorate and a career in international relations. He studied arms control, Russian studies, and diplomatic history at the University of Southern California, receiving his degree in 1987.
Dailey’s career in international affairs began in 1984 with an internship as assistant director for chemical warfare negotiations in the Pentagon. In January 1985, he became an Adjunct Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. In 1987, he co-edited and published the anthology, Soviet Strategic Deception.
In January 1988, Dailey became a professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, assigned to the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and Nuclear Deterrence. He was responsible for matters on arms control, missile defense, special access programs, as well as space and intelligence systems. In that capacity, he was also staff liaison to Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In 1992, he was appointed Executive Secretary of the National Space Council in the White House, where he was responsible for coordinating U.S. space policy for civil, commercial, defense, and intelligence issues. At the end of the Cold War, Dailey transitioned to the private sector in 1993.
Dailey returned to art full-time in 2008, leveraging his experiences in the intervening decades in his creative practice. His approach to art is both conceptual and performance based, inviting the viewer’s participation. In his frequent use of the photographic tableau vivant, Dailey explores topical existential questions and utilizes composite imagery as a vehicle for making critical commentary on contemporary social and political issues. These staged “living pictures” and related artwork have been featured extensively in exhibitions in Europe and the United States.
In the course of his work in art, government, and the private sector, he traveled to 140 countries on all continents more than 50 times to the Soviet Union and Russia. In 1984, he married fellow artist Paula Ballo, who succumbed to cancer in 2016. Dailey maintains dual American / New Zealand citizenship.
Perhaps no word better characterizes Brian Dailey (b. 1951) than polytropos, the first adjective Homer applies to Odysseus in The Odyssey. Translated from the Greek as “well traveled,” “much wandering,” and, in a more metaphorical sense, as “the man of many twists and turns,” polytropos suitably describes Dailey’s life journey and its many peregrinations. As a student at Otis Art Institute (MFA, 1975) and in his ensuing art career in Los Angeles, Dailey participated in the California in this era. His early career launched him on a path that—before bringing him full circle back to his roots as an artist—took him through a twenty-year interlude working on arms control and international security. These unusual experiences, which he approached with the same curiosity that has driven his current work, provide a fertile source of inspiration in his idiosyncratic and individualistic creative practice.
Based in the Washington DC metropolitan area and Carmel, California, Dailey is an artist whose work in a range of media, including photography, film, installations, and painting, draws on his multifaceted life experiences. His conceptual and performance based art expands the parameters of the mediums in which he works, defying easy categorization. Engaging with the social, political, and cultural issues of our times, his work is informed by his unusual background and unconventional evolution as an artist.