Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vancouver Courier, August 4th 2010

Whippet good for atmospheric painter

Artist's new series of landscapes based on grounds of Riverview psychiatric hospital


Painter and former Nanaimoite Sheri Bakes relaxes with a couple of her harshest, tuckered out critics.
Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

Like this writer, Sheri Bakes grew up on the mean streets of Nanaimo. Thunderbird Drive to be exact. We attended the same elementary, played in the same school band and occasionally practised our instruments--her on trumpet, me on saxophone--at different ends of our street, performing a squawky call-and-response routine that was neither romantic nor enjoyable for the neighbours who lived between us. Bakes now lives in Vancouver where she raises weird-looking dogs, creates colourful, hard-to-describe paintings that can be seen at the Bau-Xi Gallery (3045 Granville St.) from Aug. 7 to 21, and answers probing questions via her iPhone from former classmates who've also left Nanaimo to achieve dizzying heights of greatness.

1. In the briefest, least artist-speak way possible, could you describe your upcoming art show, In Lieu of Flowers?

A number of landscapes (oil on canvas) plus three small installations based on the grounds at Riverview Psychiatric Hospital and adjacent Colony Farm.

2. Conversely, in the most pretentious, artist-speak way possible, could you describe your upcoming show?

Several loosely rendered, brooding, wind swept, dare I say "Turner longing" landscapes strategically hung and juxtaposed in white space to look down upon three small installations (or force amplifiers), which question the psychological kinetic energy of mechanical work inside the mind of the paintings and the paintings inside the mind. Ha ha.

3. Would it be accurate to describe what you do as landscape painting?

Yes and no. Yes, the work is geographically based on a specific, pre-selected location, and rendered with those physical coordinates in mind. But no because they are more about atmosphere in motion... I think my work is thought of by some as "decorative"--you know, to "match the couch." That was a running joke among friends for a while. Then again, one collector had her antique dining room table legs shortened so she could see my painting better. I intentionally don't make art to exclude people... I make work with a lot of facets, all of which can be accessed if a person wants to go into it deeply or not. I'm not interested in making work that excludes. If a tugboat captain tells me I've nailed it, that's the best feedback to me.

4. What are some struggling artist stereotypes you embody?

I have no idea. As far as I'm concerned, my job is to show up, pay attention and do the work. As long as I do my job, I've earned my keep.

5. In 2000, you suffered a stroke. How did that affect your painting?

My vision changed. I kept going back to the opthamologist because my peripheral vision was so wide. I thought there was something wrong with my sight. But it wasn't sight, it was vision. They are very different. I see the energy of things more now. Less detailed physical definition and more the internal sense of things. I can't draw anymore at all. But I can paint better. It simplified everything to me. Thankfully that's what art needs.

6. Are there any lingering effects from your stroke?

Yes. I still have trouble concentrating sometimes. And comprehending things like sarcasm and implied meanings. I take things pretty literally most of the time. And I need things to be clear, simple, organized and pretty tidy. Fatigue... There is a small list of things. It doesn't matter though, most people can't tell anymore unless you spend any length of time with me. And my dogs don't care. I think it's hard for people I'm close to sometimes. And that's hard.

7. Are there any lingering effects from growing up in Nanaimo?

Ha ha! No more than from having a stroke I suppose!

8. Judging by the thousands of whippet photos you've posted on Facebook just this week alone, you seem to have a fondness for the species. How many do you own?

Let's be clear. They own me. Luna (9), Shine (4), and Easy (13 weeks). Number four in the wings. They don't shed much so they are ideal in the studio. They are known as "the 45-mile-an-hour couch potato" (full speed or not at all), which makes them great for the studio as well. We all get out for a couple hour-long walks in a day and they are happy to lie around and criticize my work the rest of the time. They are smart, super snugly and they uphold justice like nobody's business. You just can't get away with less than excellent behavior with them. They keep me in line. I respect that.

9. Do your dogs ever influence your paintings?

Always. They help keep my heart and moods stable. They give everything more purpose in my life. They make me happy and that greatly influences the work and my ability to make it. It's tough on a person to work long hours alone in their mind, even if their body is laying paint down on a canvas. I don't think it's healthy. They help keep things in perspective. That's their job. They are my anchors.

10. Do you ever pick up your trumpet anymore?

Unfortunately I had to hock it while in university. Does that count for the previous starving artist stereotype question?

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