Nancy Baker Interview

By Jason Clay Lewis | January 13, 2020
Infinite Ocean and Sky Islamic Art Festival, United Arab Emirates, Sharjah Museum of Art, 2091, Paint on hand and laser cut paper construction, 14" x 9"

Infinite Ocean and Sky Islamic Art Festival, United Arab Emirates, Sharjah Museum of Art, 2019,
Paint on hand and laser cut paper construction, 14" x 9"

Tell me a little about yourself and your background?

I grew up in Sea Gate, Brooklyn which was very close to Coney Island. My mother was an Ab Ex painter, and my father was a photographer, so the conversations about art were ongoing, and prolific. I spent a great deal of time in Coney Island with my friends, which was an amusement park area in steep decline. This experience had a salutary and long-lasting effect on my aesthetic leanings. The vivid colors, and the decay of Coney Island created an entry point for me in reflecting the dark side of childhood. I have tried in vain, to escape this past, but it has been impossible to ignore. So now, I embrace it with a newfound acceptance of strange remorse and alacrity.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration is without a doubt Coney Island; it appealed to my sense of the bizarre and the vibrancy and oversaturated colors that are found in amusement parks. I will never forget the ride, the Magic Carpet; a very derelict experience, that involved crawling around in dark nasty spaces, that ended with a peculiar ride on a mechanical magic carpet.

Nancy Baker

Coney Island Fun House

What other artists have been inspirational to you in your work?

Artists that respond to their environment and produce work that invades space in a monumental manner are very instructive to me. Cornelia Parker, Judy Pfaff, and Michelle Segre are artists that are somewhere between painting and sculpture but achieve great success in articulating their intelligent missives.

What can you tell us your work is about and a bit about your creative process?

For me, there is solace in the geometry of fundamentals, and in a practice that focuses on the ephemeral nature of paper and the ease of its transportability, which allows me to create large scale constructions. Working in components, I can build very large installations that are multilayered, and can significantly project outwards. Frequently, I will weave in mathematical systems like Pi and the Golden Section in a hexadecimal format. but I attempt to partly obscure the written content, by painting and slicing into the letters, integrating them into the overall structure of the piece. These paper constructions combine digitally printed, hand and laser cut geometric shapes that are painted, sprayed, scraped and gouged. Incorporated into these paper, polystyrene and Mylar sections are glitter, paint, modeling paste, gold leaf, printed commercial matter and recycled paper pulp forms.

Nancy Baker

Infinite Ocean and Sky Islamic Art Festival, United Arab Emirates, Sharjah Museum of Art, 2019,
Paint on hand and laser cut paper construction, 14" x 9"


For my installation in the Islamic Art Festival in the Sharjah Museum, I used a poem by Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet that extolled nature, and its violence.

Infinite Sky and Ocean
Oh, if a tree could wander
    and move with foot and wings!
It would not suffer the axe blows
    and not the pain of saws!

For would the sun not wander
    away in every night?
How could at ev'ry morning
    the world be lighted up?

And if the ocean's water
    would not rise to the sky,
How would the plants be quickened
    by streams and gentle rain?

The drop that left its homeland,
    the sea, and then returned?
It found an oyster waiting
    and grew into a pearl

Tell me about the show you are co-curating in the Fall?

I’m currently working on trying to find a new studio! But in the meantime, I am working on several pieces for an exhibition in the Fall at Equity Gallery. Etty Yaniv and I curated a show called Premonitory Terrain, and it hopefully will be a strong exhibition, representing contemporary anxiety and premonition.

Where can we see your work and any other projects you are working on?

I have exhibited my work at ODETTA Gallery in Bushwick, and the gallery is now in Harlem.

Nancy Baker

No Regrets, 2018 Paper packaging material, hand and laser cut paper and paint 14' x 7'

What has been your most amazing moment you have experienced as an artist?

The most amazing experience that I have had as an artist is to install major installations. It is always difficult to predict how it will culminate. The exhibition in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates probably was the most anxiety I have ever experienced. The work was packaged by and art crating company and sent overseas. I wasn’t sure how it would arrive, but I was relieved when everything was in Sharjah in perfect condition. I brought an assistant along, who is a professional installer at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Everything was extremely smooth going. There were assistants too in Sharjah Museum, and the work went up easily. I am very used to carrying my work by myself by car and installing it with some help with temporary assistants. But shipping components overseas is something else entirely. I was worried.

The Royal List Profile: Nancy Baker