Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Art Space Talk: Nancy Baker

Nancy Baker was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Nancy maintains an artblog called Tireshop, and is a team member on the Anonymous Female Artist artblog- she speaks out for gender equality in the artworld.

As for Nancy's art, Luis Camnitzer said it best: "Over the years Baker’s work has shown her knack for what looks like a perilous travel on the borderline of kitsch. Though this line is a swampy one, she managed to give the feeling of being perched up somewhere, her feet remaining clean, and still stomping with assertion. Kitsch, for her, seemed not just an exploration of dubious taste. The enterprise was also about play with forbidden taste, subversion of highbrow arrogance, poking the provincial attitudes of hegemony that determine and separate the good and valid from the bad and invalid.

Baker is and always has been a really good painter, an academic painter who at the same time keeps a critical distance from academic painting. Or maybe, a non-academic painter who, in her wish to poke her finger in the wrong places, fakes academic painting. She manages to have it both ways, doing impeccable work and also making fun of it. In this way she effectively blurs the division between art and kitsch, but not completely letting on which of both she is enriching."

Brian Sherwin: Nancy, you graduated with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Who were your mentors at that time? Also, how important of a role did your education play upon graduation?

Nancy Baker: SVA has become one of the name brand, prestige art schools. It wasn’t when I went; although it had a great reputation for being a truly professional art school, preparing artists for careers in the arts. Most art colleges emphasized a more structured academic approach, while SVA launched their students directly into the New York art world snake pit. A lot of it was pretty wild. That was in the days when it was okay for the faculty to date their students, or invite us up to their lofts for a hit on the bong.. One of my 3D design projects with artist Steve Gianakos was to design and create a water pipe. I got an A.

No one followed the rules too much. I never did any figure drawing in college, because my drawing class voted against it. I also learned how to paint after I left college.

Joseph Kosuth had a big impact on my work, probably because I thought he was such a pompous ass, and I was determined to do the opposite of what he suggested. Brice Marden, Robert Ryman, Marcia Tucker, Bill Anastasi were there, but my mentor was Michael Lowe, a wonderful painter, and a wonderful man.

BS: I understand that you maintain a studio known as The Tireshop... and that you've had a few exhibits there. Can you tell our readers about this space?
NB: I live in Raleigh NC. There’s a dearth of interesting, contemporary art in this city, so instead of getting all whiney and bummed about it, I opened a small white box space street level gallery, right next to a popular hipster bar. We had our own little island of cool. My own studio is in the same building, but separate from the gallery. I’ve curated a lot of shows, and I have invited other curators to install exhibitions there as well. Deconstructing Santa was my favorite exhibit. (Santa is big in the south: it needed serious deconstructing). Ephemera was an exhibit that required the artist to work in materials that changed or decomposed. Luis Camnitzer, the New York artists had a wonderful installation at the Tire Shop. I recently moved from this space to a more secluded location, and have been concentrating more on my own work.

BS: You also maintain an artblog called Tireshop... you are a team member on the Anonymous Female Artist blog. Your moniker is Rebel Belle. Can you tell our readers about these two blog?
NB: Anonymous Female Artist( was created by Edna V. Harris. Edna is a fictitious persona, but she does exist and she is an artist. The blog focuses on the inequality of female representation in New York art galleries and art institutions. "Edna" invited me to be a team member two years ago.

When I had a solo show in NYC, only 13% of all exhibitions were girl shows. If you don’t believe me, ask art critic Jerry Saltz. (New York Magazine) Mostly everyone posts comments anonymously in order to avoid unpleasant professional consequences from the male dominated art world; except for me, because I enjoy watching the air rush out of my rapidly deflating career.

Tire Shop ( is my personal blog, where I bitch and moan about personal art stuff.

BS: So, you would say that there is still a form of gender equality in the art world? Can you share some of your experiences in regards to this issue? Also, do you think there will ever come a time when art is seen for what it is instead of who created it?

NB: The gender equality in the art world in short, SUCKS. There are so many galleries that have one or two women out of a roster of twenty artists. No one feels the need to explain or defend this, the arrogance is monumental. I suppose women are left to assume that we are just crappy artists, when in fact a lot of this is driven by the fact that collectors think men’s art appreciates in value at a higher rate. This is all about the MONEY. I didn’t sign up for this as an artist. I’m still kind of stunned by the hedge fund mentality of the art world. Everyone’s waiting for the whole thing to collapse, and collapse it will.

BS: In regards to museums and gallery spaces that are used to only display the work of female artists- do you think that these ventures actually further the divide? Or do they open the door toward gender equality in the art world? I've spoke with a few artists (who happen to be female) who feel that said spaces are a "step back" in the direction that art should be going. What do you think?
NB: Louise Nevelson was once invited to be in an all woman artist’s show. She declined, saying that she was an artist, not a woman artist. I have mixed feelings on this. There are a lot of girl shows going on right now, and they are thematically based on bringing attention to this inequality.

Mery Lynn McCorkle put together, Pillow Talk at Ruth Bachofner, LA and Carole Cole curated "What F Word" at Cynthia Broan in NYC. Femme Fantastique will open at Volitant Gallery, Austin, in September. (I have been invited to exhibit in some of these shows and I am happy to participate). The new Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum is a good beginning, and the WACK show at MOCA in LA was really important.

I think the issue here is fundamentally about being marginalized. As working artists, women want to participate in the big game and enjoy the same compensations as the boys. We don’t want our own separate island of vaginal values. Separate but equal is a big lie.

BS: You believe that solipsism is the best strategy for survival. Can you go into further detail about your philosophical position and how it relates to your art?

NB: "My mind is the only thing that exists". This keeps me from going crazy. I don’t want to obsessively wonder about what everyone else is doing or making out there. Of course this is my own special interpretation of solipsism. A severe Narcissistic disorder is probably in there too, as well.

BS: Your work seems to be directly linked to early European paintings that involved battles... yet you give these scenes a modern twist by adding spaceships. Is this a way of stating that we- contemporary society- are creating our own myths and legends just as people had done in the past. The dragon has been replaced with a little green man, so to speak?
NB: Yes. You are dead on.

BS: Cartoon characters, such as Casper the Ghost, have been known to enter your work as well. Why do you choose these characters for you work? Or should I say... how do you decide which character to use?

NB: I have a huge inventory of images on my computer. I collect images compulsively. A lot of selection is intuitive, guided by some intenful thought. The cartoon characters have a kitschy sentimental iconography for me. They are signifiers of a time and place; American, mid century, hegemonistic global power. I’m very nostalgic. Art is always informed by personal experience.

BS: Name three problems you see with the art world today. How can these issues be resolved?
NB: Money, money, money. When the revolution comes, gonna be no more limousines. Seriously, we’re talking about such a huge machine, powered by so much greed, it will be fun to watch the collapse. When a guy like Damien Hirst can make an arrogant piece of shit thing encrusted with diamonds, you know the end is coming.

Art money used to be an oxymoron. I guess it’s naive to think that artists will continue to take a vow of poverty, when there is so much money out there. They deserve a piece of the action. And good work is being done, in spite of all the craziness. Art will go on, funded or unfunded.

BS: Nancy, I read that you are represented by the Winkleman Gallery in NYC. Is that so? Are you represented by other galleries? Where can our readers find your art?
NB: I’m not with Winkleman anymore. I’m too old for them now. I’m over thirty five.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the art world?

NB: Viva Las Vegas.
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Nancy Baker. You can learn more about Nancy and her art by visiting her website:
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin


Ivan Algonquin, Jr. said...

Ms. Nancy S. Baker is the most talented artist I have seen in quite some time. Her work is absolutely mesmerizing. Her technique is flawless. In my opinion, she is truly a national treaure. I am definitely a fan, and I predict greater recognition and success for her in the future. She certainly deserves it.

Unknown said...

Very interesting work, with great, bold colors.

Anonymous said...

I to am a big fan (well, not that BIG, maybe more like a major fan!). The whole "female artist" thing just gets to me though. In some ways that is good though, because it keeps a lot of GREAT art affordable for us low lifes!

Best of luck - where is the next event?!


Ebenezer Archer Kling said...

Good interview.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the interview. The gender inequality in the artworld is appalling. Some people ask me if that's why I sign my work P.C.Turczyn instead of using my feminine first name.

I am all for creating a full artistic career parallel to the main artworld. Marketing directly to my target communities is time consuming but rewarding.

Anonymous said...

Nancy, your work is stunning. What a surprise to "meet you"on-line this Friday eve. Just made "The Move" for a Premium Store; and discovered the eloquence of Both your visual language and your Interview... Thank you for your candor in both arenas. Right-on Sister...Suzannesilk

s said...

Nancy baker to me is not just a good artist but a great free thinker,I pray that a thousand of her are born evrywhere ! way to go