Mara Baker likes layers. In her mixed-media installations, she takes a painterly approach to the horizontal stacking of textures — screens, grates, fabric — creating a translucent geometry that is part Pop art and part poetry. In her animations, those same surfaces appear and disappear, and it’s not always obvious where solid ground lies. In Knock-Petal-Scissors, a short video that appears at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, debris from an artist’s studio, including tape and tarps, gives way to images of leaves, flowers, and other bits of nature, some of which, as they are torn away in strips, reveal themselves to be photographs of these items and not the objects themselves — far less permanent and more disposable than they first appeared.
The sound in Baker’s video, a collaboration with artist Iddo Aharony, was created using the objects in the title of the piece, which is itself a play on the game of chance called Rock-Paper-Scissors. Dragging, rustling, scraping, sawing, dropping, and scrabbling noises are mixed carefully with the unlayering of the photos, taken by Baker over a decade of studio practice and artist residencies. “In the game Rock-Paper-Scissors, you’re constantly throwing something at something, over and over again, and coming out with a different solution,” she told Pasatiempo. Magnolia blossoms, browning at the edges, figure prominently in the piece, as do pencil shavings. “Ultimately, it’s a juxtaposition of fake and real, and our understanding of time.”
Baker is a Chicago-based artist who teaches at the College of DuPage. She earned her undergraduate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and continues to be active in the city’s arts community. “My background is in painting and fiber, so I never really imagined I’d be moving in a new media direction, but I’ve worked with a lot of animators and new media artists in Chicago, and it’s helped me move my work in this direction. It feels like the right tool and the right medium to convey the conceptual ideas of my work at this point.” — Jennifer Levin
Knock-Petal-Scissors, a video collaboration by Mara Baker and Iddo Aharony, plays at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe from Friday, June 10, through June 26.