Opening reception for local artist showcases mixed media

Matthew Vancleef September 22, 2016 0

Thursday, Sept. 15, in the Hess Gallery of Zug Memorial Hall, the Elizabethtown College Department of Fine and Performing Arts hosted the opening reception for local artist John Baker’s exhibit entitled “Constructions.”

Receiving his Bachelor of Arts from West Chester University (WCU) and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Delaware, Baker has experienced different art forms throughout his life. He was a professor of arts at WCU from 1974 until his retirement in 2015. During that time, Baker also served as chair of the department of art and design for 18 years, where he established programs for students from around the world to share their creativity and artwork with WCU.

Additionally, Baker created a program to allow faculty members of WCU to exhibit their works internationally.

The 31 pieces exhibited in “Constructions” are all mixed media, combining hand-made paper, ceramics and other non-conventional materials such as wire, string, wood and beads. Baker combines these supplies to create a single work of art, usually starting with his hand-made paper. He then adds all the different materials to the collage, eventually representing a memory from his travels.

“I like to design quiet rhythmic energy often associated with landscapes that are influenced through [my] travels,” Baker stated. “Subtle changes within color and textures aid the viewer in seeing something new each time.”

Baker has traveled extensively, exploring nearly every continent. Many of the works included in “Constructions” were inspired by his time in New Mexico, Iceland, Morocco, Ecuador, Thailand, Laos, Finland and Norway.

In order “to provide an accurate representation, not an interpretation,” Baker keeps extensive travel logs, which include thousands of photographs and sketches from each of the countries he has visited.

“The artwork has a simplistic and organic feel, which is really refreshing,” first-year Mary Pugh said. “It’s a bit more abstract than I usually care for, but it is all truly amazing and inspiring, especially with the use of different textures.”

Fine arts major and 2016 alumna Meghan Kreider had a similar reaction. “I really enjoy Baker’s use of texture in his work and I wish I could touch some of the pieces, but unfortunately, I can’t,” Kreider said.

“The combination of three and two-dimensional sections in each of the pieces really makes the work come off the wall, but also has parts where it recedes. Overall, it is a very impressive and inspiring gallery.”

Baker has exhibited his artwork in over 100 galleries around the world, including private, corporate and museum exhibitions. Currently, Baker’s work can be viewed at The University Museum, Delaware Art Museum, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Sumitomo USA, AT&T, MBNA America, Capital University and in Beijing, China.

“Never give up,” Baker stated in regard to any art student or struggling artist who may be discouraged by the competitiveness of the field. “Even if you have to get a second job, just follow your passion. If art is in your soul, then you’ll find a way.”

“Constructions” will be open for viewing until Oct. 28 in the Hess Gallery of Zug Memorial Hall from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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