Show Preview | Bill Baker

Santa Fe, NM
Acosta Strong Fine Art, August 11-27

Bill Baker, Day of the Dance, pastel, 28 x 50.

Bill Baker, Day of the Dance, pastel, 28 x 50.

This story was featured in the August 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  August 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

For more than three decades, globe-trotter Bill Baker has been documenting the traditions of indigenous cultures around the world in his vibrant pastel paintings. The artist recently completed another leg of his creative journey, and the fruits of those travels are on view this month in a solo show at Acosta Strong Fine Art. The show, titled Cultural Identity, opens on Friday, August 11, with an artist’s reception at 5 p.m. “This is Bill’s life, this is his passion,” says gallery co-owner Carlos Acosta. “His works evoke an emotion rarely seen in contemporary paintings, and he articulates a culture and way of life most of us never have the honor to see.” 

Perhaps best known for his portrayals of the Tarahumara, a remote Native American tribe residing in the canyons of northern Mexico, Baker spends weeks, if not months, at a time living among the native communities he depicts in his work. The 12 new pastel paintings he brings to the show, most of which are large-scale pieces, feature scenes from his recent sojourns in Ocongate, Peru, and Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico.

DAY OF THE DANCE, for example, captures a moment during the annual Tarahumara celebration Semana Santa against the backdrop of Copper Canyon. In the foreground, two native women sit on opposite sides of a pillar while men perform a dance nearby. The brilliant hues in the women’s traditional garments exemplify the artist’s striking palette, and the scene itself reflects his love for light and shadow and careful attention to detail, right down to the embroidery in the clothing.

By immersing himself in native cultures, Baker is usually permitted to photograph them, and he also makes what he calls “gesture drawings.” Back at his studio in Corrales, NM, the artist uses these references to complete his paintings. Although he regards his works as historical records of vanishing ways of life, he is quick to point out that they are poetic expressions, too. “I do want to evoke emotion from the viewer,” he says, “not only through the cultural scene, but through the depth of color and the technique—all the ingredients of what should be a masterpiece, a true work of art with a slice of poetry.” —Kim Agricola

contact information
505.982.2795
www.johnbstrong.com

This story was featured in the August 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  August 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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