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InLiquid Artist Profile: Jennifer Baker

Jennifer Baker

"Saint Michaelís and Northern Liberties Rec Center, Three Men Talking"

Editor's note: This interview is presented as part of a content partnership with InLiquid.

Jennifer Baker
Sculpture/Mixed Media

Northern Liberties, Philadelphia

Where do you work?

I have a studio in Northern Liberties, where I have been for 37 years.

What is your discipline?

I began as a sculptor making large figures in environments. Eventually I moved into making paintings and monoprints, and now I'm going back to making some three dimensional work. I have always made drawings, which tie together the different mediums I work in. 

What training have you had?

I received a four-year certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a Bachelors of Fine Aarts from Philadelphia College of Arts (now University of the Arts). I also attended the Art Student's League of New York where I studied drawing with Marshall Glasier.

What are you currently working on? 

I'm working on a large sculpture installation piece about Icarus, utilizing cut-out sheet copper, aluminum and paint on canvas.

I am also working on monoprints of Northern Liberties, continuing my series of monoprints and paintings documenting the dramatic changes that have taken place in this Philadelphia neighborhood over the last 30 years. These new pieces explore the impact of the most recent wave of development on the old industrial neighborhood and its residents.

Describe your methods for us.

I use a very low-tech method for my monoprints. I work with oil paint -- and sometimes block printing ink -- on mylar sheets. I transfer the image from the plate without the use of a press, using a brayer or a smooth stone on the back of the mylar. I use a variety of handmade papers to achieve different textures of the finished print. 

For my paintings, I work with oil on wood panels. I use oil paint almost like watercolor, achieving a matt, fresco-like surface.

For my sculptures and installations, I work with many different materials. I have worked in clay and cast my sculptures in hydrocal reinforced with fiberglass, and then incorporated many different materials to create environments: paper, wood, ceramic tile and living trees are some examples.
What have you been up to most recently?

My most recent project was as visual artist for a Pew-funded performance project about immigration created by choreographer Silvana Cardell, titled Supper, People on the Move. As the visual artist for the project, I was responsible for the objects and setting that were part of the performance as well as the costumes. 

I also curated an exhibit, Portraits of People on the Move, that accompanied the performance at the CRANE Arts Building. The exhibit consisted of interviews with and photographs of Philadelphia-area immigrants who shared their personal stories. There were 14 large wall panels and portfolio books of all 51 of the collected stories. There is also, still available, a blog with all the stories.

In 2014, I curated the exhibit Northern Liberties: From World's Workshop to Hipster Mecca and the People in Between for the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent. This exhibit consisted of historic photos, artifacts, video interviews and text, as well a book and slide show of Northern Liberties artists and another book of personal stories of the neighborhood. 
What's next up for you?

I have a show of my paintings and monoprints opening July 18 at Atwater Gallery in Rhinebeck, N.Y. I will be showing paintings and prints of Northern Liberties as well as paintings of Centralia, Penn., that I did several years ago but have never exhibited. 
What inspires you?

I am inspired by what I see around me, what I read, by the rapidly changing post-industrial neighborhood of my studio, by the myths of ancient Greece. 
Why do you make art?

I make art to tell a story, to see something in a particular way, to compel others to consider a different way of looking at something. I wish to explore certain ideas about my world and to figure out how to communicate these ideas in a visually compelling way.
What do you hope people will get out of your work?

I am concerned about the formal elements of composition: color, form, line, etc. But my larger concerns are always with the content and/or narrative of the work. With my pieces about Northern Liberties, I am documenting the transformation of this rapidly changing neighborhood and how it has affected the people who live there -- the loss of history and memory. In many of my paintings, I explore themes of everyday life: a garden, a workplace, daily chores, places and activities that help to define one's sense of self. My sculptures, perhaps because they are much more long term projects, tend to have more timeless themes, sometimes referring to stories and myths from ancient times and what those stories have to say to us today.
INLIQUID is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to providing opportunities for visual artists and designers, serving as a free public hub for arts information and resources and making the visual arts more accessible to a broader audience through a continuing series of community-based art exhibitions and programs. 
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