Painter David Graeme Baker was on campus on April 7 to speak at the opening of a new Warner Gallery show of his works. The exhibit, titled "Reality, Memory, and Fiction," showcases recent figurative paintings and sketches, which the artist explained are "the results of a lengthy process of collecting and cataloging narrative and visual ideas around a theme" and utilize "inspiration from art history, literature, photography, popular media and music" (and often his own wife and children as models).
"Baker very eloquently shared with students and faculty his artistic process," said visual art teacher Navanjali Kelsey. "He finds inspiration in articulating imagery of moments from his life. His images are are a stunning narrative of everyday life in Maine, but as one student so beautifully stated, they have a 'wistful' quality to them. Baker is seeking a visual harmony in combination with his own emotional response."
"When I first walked past David Graeme Baker's work, I knew he lived in Maine," said art major Grace Flynn '17, who hails from Maine. "His work features grassy plains with pine trees in the background, or a road with a view of the vast ocean to the east. Baker's work is vibrant with colors and filled with intricate details. What first drew me to his work is the smoothness of his strokes and the photographic gloss that graces the surface of each piece."
Baker was born in South Africa in 1968, and graduated from Wesleyan University as an art major with a focus on sculpture. He later attended the four year studio art certificate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. After working as an artist for a number of years in Philadelphia and Bucks County, Pennsylvania, he moved to Mount Desert Island, Maine, where his still resides with his wife and two sons. Baker has, in the past, painted a number of portraits of SAS faculty children and families.
"For me, it was particularly interesting to hear about the manner in which he goes about the process of finding a starting point for each work," Kelsey said. "What immediately struck me is how our seniors face this in the studio constantly, and that hearing about Baker's methodology could be useful. For example, he explained his process for developing the idea for his painting of a girl wearing a mask. Baker used the mask—which he brought with him, and passed around during his talk—as his point of departure. Through careful examination of and thought about this object, his resolution for the painting became clear."
"I was able to speak briefly with Baker before the gallery opening," Grace recalled. "I asked him how the looseness in the background of one of his paintings played a role in that piece, since the backgrounds in his other pieces were uniformly detailed. He told me the background movement helped to emphasize the focus on the painting's subject, but that he was still thinking about going back into the painting and creating more detail in the background. I enjoyed hearing about his work and how he is constantly going back and reworking a piece until he is happy with it. His dedication to his craft is admirable."
Reality, Memory, and Fiction will be on view in the Warner Gallery through May 10.