Beverly Baker, Untitled, 2015, Ballpoint pen on paper, 15 x 22 inches
May 25 - July 1, 2017
Institute 193, Lexington
When Bruce Burris and Crystal Bader founded Latitude Arts in 2001, Beverly Baker became one of the first artists to take part in their studio program. She has worked there ever since. Before joining Latitude's community, Baker made drawings on discarded confidential documents that she snuck home after her work shifts at a secure paper shredding facility. Prison records, tax forms, and mental health evaluations were transformed into drawing surfaces, giving rise to deeply textured explorations of line, color, and form. She also maintained a regular "studio" on a table at her mother's salon.
Every Baker drawing begins with the repetitive rendering of a limited set of letters and numbers. B, her first initial, is by far the most common. Other letters and numbers may appear at this early stage, and she will occasionally use a complete word inspired by the carefully chosen magazines she keeps on her desk. In time, Baker begins to apply intense, curved pen strokes to cover the surface of the paper. Her lines sweep across the page, arc upward and veer to the right of the sheet. As she works to fill the surface, her marks gradually obliterate the foundational letters and words that lay beneath.
Created primarily with a single black ballpoint pen, Baker's works are time intensive, and she may work on the same drawing every day for an entire month. As the surface is gradually filled, patches of color: bluish hues, purple reflections, and deep reds appear. The multiple layers of black ink give the works a reflective intensity, and the surface of the paper, after hours of being worked, over-worked, and burnished, bear a luminous and velvety texture.
Baker's spoken vocabulary is limited, but her devotion to language remains undaunted and all-consuming. Her obsession with writing letters and numbers brings up numerous questions. Why does every drawing begin with 'B,' the artist's first initial, and why does the artists proceed to obscure it beyond recognition? Does the impulse to employ these signs and signifiers emanate from a desire to communicate or an aesthetic fascination with the symbols themselves? Baker's objective remains up for debate, but her intense dedication to creating remains solid and steadfast.
This exhibition was organized in collaboration with the Latitude Artist Community.
Support for this exhibition has been graciously provided by Verbal Behavior Consulting, Inc.