May 052017
 

UndoingUndoing — acrylic and graphite pencil on paper, 20″ x 20″, 2012 (from Lachesis measure exhibit, 2012)

Bonnie Baker in studio 8
Bonnie Baker in her studio

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The work I make is connected to rural culture. I grew up in the farmlands of Southern Ontario at a time when big tobacco agribusiness was at its peak. The affected communities changed rapidly as small family farms adapted to industrialized agriculture. Transformation, for good or bad, made a permanent impression on me. I use the imagery of vacant highways, emptied landscapes, abstract cloudscapes, animal bones, twists of rope, and topographical lines to suggest frailty and uncertainty where once was tradition and stability.

The fact that I continue to work within the representational genre is a choice. I am fascinated by the representational element. There is much room for large and small space, for both intimacy and distance within the same work. I never feel constricted or boxed into a dead end by iconic objects or landscapes. Though physical objects appear defined, ideas surrounding them are limitless.

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From Geography of Bliss exhibit, 2016

Seal Island Bridge Split ViewSeal Island Bridge Road Camera Split View — graphite and mica on paper,
40″ x 60″, 2016

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Bridgetown 2011Bridgetown Road Camera Feb 2011 — graphite, charcoal and pastel on paper,
22″ x 30″, 2016

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Hubbards 2012Hubbards Road Camera Feb 2012 — graphite and wax crayon on paper,
22″ x 30″, 2016

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Road leads awayroad leads away — graphite on paper, 40″ x 60″, 2013

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My approach is governed by the Japanese concept called mujinzou, which loosely translated means inexhaustible supply. I may have an idea when I go to the studio, but many theories fail during investigation, which leads to new passages. I allow myself many failures, then explore the unintended consequences. Often the by-product of initial attempts contains profound meaning. I think navigating the passages can be more significant than the finalized state.

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from Lachesis measure exhibit, 2012

7. Infinity 500 pxInfinity — charcoal and wax crayon on paper, 36″ x 72″, 2012 

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FrayedFrayed — charcoal and crayon on Mylar, 36″ x 24″, 2011

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I begin by looking closely at a subject, methodically creating drawings of the same image over and over to understand my subject better. Once the image gains a life of its own, then I can look at it, think about it, and revise it. The revised drawing is now an expression of a new thought, rich in emotional expression and poetic aftermath. What is left behind by erasure or alterations is the debris marks recording the drawing’s history, exposing it to a richness and depth that happens by chance.

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From Boneyard series, ongoing

VertebraVertebrae — graphite on paper, 26″ x 31″,  2016
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Lamb's HipLamb’s Hip — graphite on paper, 24″ x 38″, 2016
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Right AntlerRight Antler — graphite on paper, 22″ x 30″, 2016

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I prefer the restraints imposed by charcoal and graphite sometimes mixed with organic elements, reserving colour for printmaking. Drawing in black, white, and grey intensifies focus without sentimentality, avoiding the temptation to appreciate only the meditative beauty of the subject.

In a similar way, my printmaking also records objects belonging to a rural environment and an ecology of transition. Using combinations of printmaking techniques, I am concerned less with the perfection of the editioned print, letting the image develop at the press as multiple variations often lead to play and exploration of a subject.

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From Archipelago suite, ongoing

ConfluenceConfluence — etching, 22″ x 30″, 2012
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ConvergenceConvergence — etching, 22″ x 30″, 2012
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IsthmusIsthmus — etching, 22″ x 30″, 2012
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I work full-time as an artist and this gives me a great deal of happiness. I am usually working in my head. I am thinking about projects as I walk, shop, and do household tasks. I make mental notes on changes to things I am working on. I cannot predict who or what will influence how I see or think about what I am working on, only that these experiences will subtly revise how I critically think then technically express themes in my work. The time spent in the studio is far less than the time spent thinking about, making notes on, and preparing for actually working. Working in the studio is my way of being alone, of being curious, of seeking clarity. It is often a confusing, uncomfortable and frustrating way to work, but if I persist long enough, new paths are uncovered.

—Bonnie Baker

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Bonnie Baker works at drawing and printmaking. Before moving to Nova Scotia, where she now lives, Bonnie studied glass blowing at Humber College in Ontario, lived in Whitehorse, Yukon, and travelled through Alaska. Bonnie has studied printmaking at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, at Women’s Studio Workshop, NY, and with master printmaker Cecil Day. In addition to drawing and printmaking, Bonnie worked with textiles from 1984 to 2007.

Community engagement is very much part of her practice. Among other projects, she has organized public events involving outdoor projection of text written collectively by several hundred strangers over a six-hour period; printmaking marathons using skateboards, roller blades, bicycles, and all things wheeled; exhibits on the open interpretation of the book form; and environmentally sensitive installations by several artists along a walking trail. She’s a founding member, active printmaker, and administrator of Elephant Grass Print Collective, a community-based printmaking studio in the fishing village of Parker’s Cove, Nova Scotia. Following her 2016 exhibit of drawings, Geography of Bliss, Bonnie is now focusing on a series of woodcuts and etchings that explore the crossover between her drawing and printmaking practices. Bonnie is a 2016 recipient of an Established Artist Award from Creative Arts Nova Scotia. https://bonniebakerstudio.com/

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  2 Responses to “Geography of Bliss | Drawings and Etchings — Bonnie Baker”

  1. Exquisite, often deeply moving images.

  2. “I allow myself many failures, then explore the unintended consequences” and “I am usually working in my head” were phrases of great comfort to me — the first because it offers permission and possibility, and the second because I often feel uncomfortable that I work so quickly…when I actually sit down to write or edit — but I’ve done a lot of work in my head as I just wander around looking aimless. Thank you for the images and article.

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