Bill Baker’s Vanishing Tribes

Bill baker somewhere #2

Born in Bronxville, New York in 1961, Bill Baker’s realization that he was an artist, occurred while working as a carpenter in the city.

The access to great art via the City’s  museums, inspired him to enroll in an art class at Dutchess County Community College in Poughkeepsie.

After a year of study, Baker decided that travel and the experiences he would gain from it, would be far more rewarding than continuing a formal education in the Arts.

Bill Baker, Forlorn Flower, pastel, 18x25

In 1985 he took to the road, traveling to remote villages photographing and painting indigenous people, his camera and sketchbooks capturing their culture and traditional ways.

“I’ve traveled to over fifty countries and actually lived in these remote places, getting to know the people and their ways,” he says, “ and places that once were so hard to get to, are now easily accessed by paved roads and highways.”

Bill Baker, Into the Son, pastel, 18x25

“The world has changed so much in the past twenty or thirty years,” he told me  “I feel as if I’m in a race against time, to capture all of these people and places, before they are gone forever.”

His modus operandi  is to arrive alone in a foreign country, carrying little more than a backpack and camera, take a cab from the airport to the nearest motorcycle shop, where he generally purchases a motorcycle, finds a map and hits the road. He has lived for several months with different tribes in the Amazon basin and traveled extensively throughout Nepal, India, South America, Mexico, Central America, Southeast Asia as well as the United States.

Bill Baker, Hanging On, pastel, 9x8

Known mainly for his compelling studies of Tarahumara Indians in Mexico, this past year has seen a shift in focus for the artist, to farther-flung places, including Tibet, Mongolia and Africa where he has turned his practised eye on the indigenous people of those regions, with the same intensity.

Baker usually works on a large-scale but his show at the Michael McCormick Gallery opening tomorrow is somewhat of a departure for him; small pieces and portraits.

A much awarded artist, Baker’s masterful technique, his play of light and shadow combined with his fearless use of colour and his deep understanding and respect for the people he paints, give his work a singular edge.

Bill Baker, Band on Da Run, pastel 27x38

His pastel paintings capture the authentic rhythms of  daily life, in perfect harmony with the seasons and nature. By choosing to paint scenes of ordinary, everyday events, he elevates these images into extraordinary heights; each moment, each detail perfectly rendered and vibrating with colour and light.

The attention to detail is what makes Baker’s work so profound and emotional; every thread in the woven cloth worn by his subjects, every strand of embroidery is noted and recorded as if each is intricately connected to the person and their story, as indeed they are. It’s as if the artist is bent on creating a time-capsule with these windows into worlds most of us will never see in reality, but reminding us that they do in fact, exist and moreover, co-exist with us on the same planet.

Bill Baker, Nescafe, pastel, 25x19Baker has lived in Albuquerque for the past twenty some years, chosen for its close proximity to Mexico. He has long been a major draw at the Michael McCormick Gallery where he has shown since 2004.

Bill Baker’s show of new work opens tomorrow, Saturday June 13th from 4-8pm. Please visit the Gallery link below for more information.


Photographs of Bill Baker and his work care of the Michael McCormick Gallery

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