Caroline H. Baker
In painting the environment with which I am familiar in Southwest Virginia I correlate the process by which the land is changed through human use to the process I subject my canvasses to. Human beings interact with the landscape in various ways locally, including habitation, agriculture, urbanization and, most notably, the extraction of natural resources which contributes to an environment which is both rural and industrial at the same time. Many of our 'pastoral' vistas are actually the product of strip mining. This act of stripping away and then building up, in a way defies the nature of the land as much as it is tied to the essential characteristics of the terrain. Similarly, the character of the canvas as fabric is contradicted in the act of stretching, sizing, priming and covering with paint; although its inherent qualities of flexibility and light weight are what make it an appropriate support for painting. For example, because canvas is already heavily sized, I must remove this through scouring first just as the land must be prepared by removal of trees and topsoil before surface mining, ubiquitous in this particular region, can commence. The land is worked into new forms, allowing for the path of runoff to be redirected. My canvasses are folded and wrinkled to direct the flow of dye to the desired result, forming the structure for the painting to be built upon.
Each painting in the landscape series is site specific and constructed taking into account memory of numerous vantages including physical, spatial, cartographic and experiential. I found it important to present the landscape as I have committed it to my memory partially because it is being changed drastically and quickly relative to the natural cycle of things, including and often accelerated greatly by human intervention. The way part of the landscape looks today may be very different to the way it will look a short time in the future. As part of the human experience, we shape a place according to various factors, an act which transforms the land itself into a monument of sorts with individual locations retaining greater or lesser significance depending on the person or group of people observing it. As such, portrayal of a place as it sits in my mind's eye has more permanence than direct use of photo reference or sketches executed on site, although the experience and action of creating these as related to a site are referenced in the process of completing the finished work in some instances. Time and the actual solidity and reality of each location are major factors that shape individual paintings throughout conception and execution.