Baker’s practice stems from her background studying painting and fiber arts. The works in this exhibition fall under a broad definition of painting: self-contained discrete objects utilizing the visual language of painting. They are sculptural assemblages composed of many parts and layers. Materials recycled not only from out in the world but from the artist’s studio and even works themselves.
The struggle to work through something is often thought of as linear movement. We look at history as a line moving in one direction: into the future. This we apply to our daily lives and our work lives. Managers preface statements in meetings with bromides like, “Moving forward, I want you to…” And if things aren’t going well with a project we quip, “One step forward, two steps back.”
Baker prefers to flip this around and think of the daily struggle in the studio not as a futility, but as a series of incremental changes. And maybe removal or subtraction-“stepping back”-isn’t such a bad thing either. Two steps forward, one step back. Take a step back at what you’re working on and consider it.
Beyond a way of conceiving of progress (or lack thereof) as a general idea, Baker’s process is also literally about adding and removing. Two forward, one back is a way of looking how she uses found material. “I like this in thinking about art making in general and the process of using found or recycled materials. I use found information, put it through the mill of my studio (additive) and then subtract until I come to a place that makes sense,” the artist notes. One can’t help thinking of Jasper Johns’ adage, “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.”
Mara Baker lives and works in Chicago, IL. Recent exhibitions include: Interstice, curated by Rachel Adams and Rob Greene at 308 at 156 Project Art Space, New York, NY in 2014; The Tyranny of Good Taste, curated by Danny Orendorff at Glass Curtain Gallery, Columbia College, Chicago in 2013 and travelled to La Esquina Gallery, Kansas City in 2014; Just Like All Those Times Tomorrow at SideCar Gallery, Hammond, in 2013; and Two Histories of the World curated by Karsten Lund at the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, in 2012. Baker has been featured by Art21 Magazine, ArtSlant, Bad At Sports, The Chicago Reader, The Chicago Tribune, Newcity, Huffington Post and Sixty Inches From Center. She received her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2007 and her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005.