UN­COV­ER­ING LAY­ERS: Mara Baker

Pasatiempo - - CURRENTS - — Jennifer Levin

Mara Baker likes lay­ers. In her mixed-me­dia in­stal­la­tions, she takes a painterly ap­proach to the hor­i­zon­tal stack­ing of tex­tures — screens, grates, fab­ric — creating a translu­cent ge­om­e­try that is part Pop art and part po­etry. In her an­i­ma­tions, those same sur­faces ap­pear and dis­ap­pear, and it’s not al­ways ob­vi­ous where solid ground lies. In Knock-Pe­tal-Scis­sors, a short video that ap­pears at El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe, de­bris from an artist’s stu­dio, in­clud­ing tape and tarps, gives way to im­ages of leaves, flow­ers, and other bits of na­ture, some of which, as they are torn away in strips, re­veal them­selves to be pho­to­graphs of these items and not the ob­jects them­selves — far less per­ma­nent and more dis­pos­able than they first ap­peared.

The sound in Baker’s video, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with artist Iddo Aharony, was cre­ated us­ing the ob­jects in the ti­tle of the piece, which is it­self a play on the game of chance called Rock-Pa­per-Scis­sors. Drag­ging, rustling, scrap­ing, saw­ing, drop­ping, and scrab­bling noises are mixed care­fully with the un­lay­er­ing of the photos, taken by Baker over a decade of stu­dio prac­tice and artist res­i­den­cies. “In the game Rock-PaperS­cis­sors, you’re con­stantly throw­ing some­thing at some­thing, over and over again, and com­ing out with a dif­fer­ent so­lu­tion,” she told Pasatiempo. Mag­no­lia blos­soms, brown­ing at the edges, fig­ure promi­nently in the piece, as do pen­cil shav­ings. “Ul­ti­mately, it’s a jux­ta­po­si­tion of fake and real, and our un­der­stand­ing of time.”

Baker is a Chicago-based artist who teaches at the Col­lege of DuPage. She earned her un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree from the School of the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago and con­tin­ues to be ac­tive in the city’s arts

com­mu­nity. “My back­ground is in paint­ing and fiber, so I never re­ally imag­ined I’d be mov­ing in a new me­dia di­rec­tion, but I’ve worked with a lot of an­i­ma­tors and new me­dia artists in Chicago, and it’s helped me move my work in this di­rec­tion. It feels like the right tool and the right medium to con­vey the con­cep­tual ideas of my work at this point.”

Knock-Pe­tal-Scis­sors, a video col­lab­o­ra­tion by Mara Baker and Iddo Aharony, plays at El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe from Fri­day, June 10, through June 26.

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