American Art Collector - - Contents - Bernar­ducci Gallery 525 W. 25th Street • New York, NY 10001 • (212) 593-3757 www.bernar­duc­ci­

A Road Well Taken

In the late 1950s, John Baeder drove the back roads from his home in At­lanta to Auburn Univer­sity in Alabama where he was study­ing fine art. The din­ers, gas sta­tions, tourist camps, mo­tels and restau­rants he “un­con­sciously saw” along the way fu­eled a de­sire to collect the ubiq­ui­tous 1920s to 1940s post­cards of ob­scure din­ers. “I saw them as small paint­ings,” he says. He later en­larged the im­ages in his own paint­ings to 42 by 66 inches. The fas­ci­na­tion also fu­eled a de­sire to later take road trips to in­ves­ti­gate small town Amer­ica.

When he was an ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive he be­gan mak­ing his paint­ings, and in Feb­ru­ary 1972 showed the first four to Ivan Karp, pro­pri­etor of the O.K. Har­ris Gallery in New York. Baeder quit his job in April and had his first show at Karp’s an­nex space, Hun­dred Acres Gallery, the fol­low­ing Septem­ber.

“While in ad­ver­tis­ing,” he says, “I’d

pay at­ten­tion to the art world and al­ways vis­ited gal­leries. Work­ing on the Pills­bury ac­count (pan­cakes, brown­ies and new prod­ucts), I was the first to put truck­ers in a diner us­ing their low-calo­rie sweet­ener for a TV spot. The idea was shot down. (Now look at all the din­ers in TV spots!)”

Trav­el­ing with his mother by train from At­lanta to Chicago, Baeder re­calls the thrill of eat­ing in the din­ing car and be­ing “glued to the win­dow look­ing at the back­sides of small towns. I en­joyed the lit­tle land­scapes framed by the win­dow.”

Baeder not only puts him­self into his paint­ings—“They rep­re­sent me. They’re who I am.”—he adds el­e­ments to the orig­i­nal post­card im­ages. In one paint­ing of John’s Diner with John’s Chev­elle he in­serted the trusty car that he had bought new in 1968. The car took him on many road trips and ap­pears in the paint­ing in 1976, a lit­tle the worse for wear.

Char­lotte’s Diner, El­lenville, NY, 2012, em­pha­sizes the hor­i­zon­tal sym­me­try of the sleek, man­u­fac­tured diner. The sym­me­try of the paint­ing it­self is thrown off by the fuel tank on the left.

When Baeder says the paint­ings rep­re­sent him, he means that in a way far deeper than a re­mem­brance of things past. “Ev­ery­thing I do is psy­cho­log­i­cal,” he says. As a fol­lower of Jun­gian psy­chol­ogy, he rec­og­nizes the fem­i­nine in the diner—a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the great mother, the provider of nour­ish­ment. The hor­i­zon­tal rep­re­sents the fem­i­nine whereas the ver­ti­cal rep­re­sents the mas­cu­line.

At the time of the pub­li­ca­tion of Jay Wil­liams’ book on his work, John Baeder’s Road Well Taken in 2015, his Nash­ville song­writer friends Ken Spooner and Fred Koller wrote a song to ac­com­pany it. The song, A Road Well Taken, is the ba­sis of a short film by Kaki Camp­bell that can be seen on YouTube.

He will have his first ex­hi­bi­tion at Bernar­ducci Gallery in New York, Novem­ber 1 through De­cem­ber 15.


2Char­lotte’s Diner, El­lenville, NY, oil on can­vas, 24 x 36"3The Em­bassy, oil on can­vas, 24 x 36"3


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