Born in Ontario, moving to Nova Scotia in the mid-70s, Bonnie Baker has always engaged in some form of cultural work. She studied Fine Art at Humber College, and a decade later, printmaking at NSCAD after which she followed a self directed path. Her diverse career involved film, fibre arts, drawing and printmaking as either an arts administrator, instructor or artist, often combining all three. Now as a fulltime artist in Annapolis Royal, she explores the rich overlap between drawing, painting and printmaking while experimenting with the natural form. As a teacher, she encourages the same passion for learning and pushing the materials in others. Her drawings and prints continue to be shown in solo and group exhibits throughout Canada and US and acquired by private and public collections of the Art Bank of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank and Societe internationale des enterprises ECONOMUSE, Quebec.
Believing in the concept of pay back, Bonnie has always been an active volunteer in local, regional and national organizations. She currently sits on VANS Board (exoficio), the AGNS Board of Governors as well as being a founding member of Elephant Grass Print Collective, a newly formed open access printmaking and letterpress studio.
A Larger Pool
I joined VANS in 2003/4, perhaps earlier, becoming a regional representative on the Board in 2006. Moving to a rural community in 2000, I found it can become a form of isolation for an artist, even when living in a place with its own strong and vibrant arts community. I joined VANS as a way of staying connected to a much larger pool of people, information and influences. I still believe this is driving reason for artists to join VANS. Despite the challenge of the rural/urban divide, VANS functions as junction between our time spent in a solitary studio and the sphere in which contemporary art plays out.
External and Internal Environments
I am influenced by the environment I am in at any given moment, by which I mean both external and internal. What I am seeing, hearing and reading finds it way into the work even if I am the only one to recognize it. I am easily distracted and need a studio outside of my home in order to isolate myself enough to work. I am pretty single minded when it comes to working and living. When I am not in the studio, I am reading about art, other artists or going to galleries or movies. But it is the sculpture or installations that really moves me these days, more than the 2 dimensional image. However, if an exhibition of William Kentridge drawings or prints came to Canada or the Eastern United States, I would be moving earth to go.
Doubt or Balance
Doubt, economics and access to equipment/technologies can be barriers when you are located in a rural area, especially as a printmaker. You either have to purchase a press or travel distances. When I am feeling at a loss with a piece, I sometimes regret not pursuing more academic training. One just has to do the work regardless of doubt or perhaps because of it. Choosing to live as an artist full time gives the commodity of time but it also means I will likely live near poverty’s edge at an age I would prefer comfort and security. I don’t show as much as I should in commercial galleries because of the prohibitive costs of framing works on paper. Despite the second guessing, I am happy overall with the recent work – it is ready to move ahead again. Finding that comfortable balance between commercial success and satisfying my own aesthetic vision remains my biggest challenge.
A Stream of Small Talk
Everything I do is a form of drawing no matter what the medium is, and the drawing begins with a natural form. Once the drawing has been started I am only really concerned with how its physical state progresses. The drawing and I are in continual conversation, a stream of small talk- if I make this mark what happens to the balance, what is happening to the paper surface itself, what is the drawing saying to me. I often lay down fields of graphite to be erased creating an armature for other marks to be hooked onto, lurking below surface like minnows. I like how erasing can physically change the paper surface, making it difficult sometimes to work around in a practical way but it can also create a fragility and tension in the piece that goes beyond the composition itself.
Old Series and the New
I just finished a suite of 17 cloud drawings in graphite . They are the start of a new cycle of drawings I will work on in the coming winter, maybe longer. An idea or theme needs to percolate a couple of years for me before I seriously start working it though. And I have now pulled out the map/landscape inspired etchings I begun in 2011 to finish this series again. I will go back and forth between the two now for the coming year. I usually have different series going on with a number of pieces in various states of completeness. I can see the common thread at any given stage but it is not always obvious to the outsider.
To Immerse Myself in Drawing
I want to immerse myself in drawing again whether at the easel or at the press working towards an exhibit in 2015/16 and go on a residency at a printmaking studio outside the region. On the administration side, I will continue to be active with Elephant Grass Print Collective studio getting it stabilized, initiating a workshop series and/or residency program to bring in a printmaker or book artist.