What To Do With The Missing, alabaster, concrete, marble dust, 4ft x 3ft x 3ft, 2007
Brian Sherwin: Debra, you have studied at several institutions-- earning an MFA in 2007. Did you have any influential instructors?
Debra Baxter: Nancy Shaver, Nayland Blake, Taylor Davis and Karyn Olivier have all been influential.
Speed bag (love tap), glass, steel, 12 x 12 x 16 in, 2007 (detail below)
BS: Your works often seems to question the fragility of the human spirit… at least that is my interpretation. For example, with Speed Bag (love tap) you utilized glass and steel to create the form of a speed bag… as you know speed bags are used by boxers in order to train their speed and endurance. One could suggest that this piece represents the career of the average boxer-- one that often leads to a body broken down by the peril of prize fighting and a mind ravaged by what could have been. In that sense the piece reveals the inevitable weakness of those fighters because the end result of their career often leaves them in a state of fragility-- in mind, body, and spirit. Again, that is my interpretation. Can you discuss the meaning behind this piece?
DB: Something you want to punch will break if you do. So yes, it is about fragility, vulnerability, aggression, and what the body is called to do to this object. It has NOTHING to do with prize fighting. The alabaster punching bag is similar but has to do with levity an weight both physical and physiological. The balloon defying gravity has to do with hope.
BS: The titles and subject of your work sometimes reference aspects of popular culture… such as references to Gene Simmons of KISS and the rapper Outkast. Can you discuss this connection? What are the social implications of your work?
DB: Much of it is humor based and being somewhat absurd. I am interested in how popular culture more specifically hip hop. Because one of my main media is stone carving, a prehistoric art method. I am interested in the juxtaposition of old and new. I think it is important to make a nod to pop culture and not just make art that is purely emotion based.
Untitled (Gene Simmons Inspires Me), alabaster, Weathered Foam, 2006 (detail below)
BS: You have stated that you enjoy working in the tradition of Bernini and Michelangelo as far as some of your works are concerned. What else can you tell us about your influences?
DB: Their is a very obvious Eva Hess and Louise Bourgeois influence. But others are Bas Jan Ader and Tracey Emin, artists that wear their hearts on their sleeves and make work about longing and failure. I'm interested in the power that comes from being vulnerable and giving up.
BS: Can you discuss your process? For example, do you create preliminary drawings? Or do you work intuitively, so to speak?
DB: I work by making drawings, doing research, looking at anatomy books. Then I usually make a clay model before I make the final piece out of stone because there is very little room for mistake in stone. So other pieces come from me just fucking around in my studio with different things I have collected, pieces of wood, agate, cypress knees.
Outkast Gave Me An Asthma Attack, alabaster, 4.5 x 1.5 x 2.5 inches, 2007
BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?
DB: I am working on a ramp with agate embedded in it...hoping to ride a BMX bike off it. I am carving an inside out glove out of alabaster called.." you turn me inside out ( like a glove)" and I am working on a glass balloon/hourglass. I also just received a grant to make an beautiful insanely long table to display my work on much like archaeological finds. So I am working on many pieces for that table as well.
BS: Finally, my understanding is that you are currently represented by Massimo Audiello Gallery. Do you have any upcoming exhibits with the gallery?
DB: I will show with Massimo again, but it is not on the books yet.
You can learn more about Debra Baxter by visiting her website-- www.debrabaxter.com. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- www.myartspace.com/interviews.
Take care, Stay true,