In January of 2015, a group of artists spent ten days in the desert in residency at
the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, NV. This group, consisting of Jill
Baker, Megan Berner, Nicole Donnelly, and Jennifer Myers, attended the
University of Iowa together working towards MFAs between 2005 and 2009.
This was the first time we were able to reunite and work together in over 5 years.
We used the time and space together to start new work and collaborate with
each other, letting the work be influenced by the environment and the
conversations taking place. Some individual pieces were completed during the
residency but a lot of the work became starting points for larger ideas to develop.
We experimented with cyanotypes, gathering materials from the desert,
documenting, photographing, and giving ourselves various exercises (i.e., “1
minute photographs” that were short video pieces, going on short walks, and
quick free writing activities). After returning from the desert, we continued to
create artwork from our experience from a distance, sharing images via a Tumblr
page. We are thinking of this work as ongoing—like a dialogue.
Inspired by Desert Notes, a collection of essays by author Barry Lopez, we
imagined that much of what we were doing in the desert were notations,
sketches, open ended ideas, and conversations with and about the landscape
and environment. Our Desert Notes became drawings, photographs, impressions
and reflections, collections, short videos, and performances.
In my work, I explore the ways we interact with our environment—how we form
relationships with it and how those connections influence our interpretation of the world
around us—what marks we leave behind, the experiences—intangible and manifest,
and the action of moving through or being in a place. I am interested in liminal spaces,
internal and external—spaces that are transitional and in-between, not quite here or
there. Mirages and other light phenomena, states of meditation, suspended moments,
and dream states all occupy this kind of territory.
Ecology and environmental issues are central to my art making process. For one, as a
hand papermaker and visual artist, this is where my raw materials come from, and
secondly, the imagery I create always pertains to the responsibility we carry to conserve
the natural world. For the last 7 years, I have been creating site-specific outdoor
artworks, as well as continuing to make more traditional paintings and “hang-on-the-
wall” sculptural pieces which incorporate handmade paper, printmaking processes, and
light-weight tree branch armatures. I strive for simplicity in these works: to create a
visual space that any individual can encounter and appreciate for the sake of color, or
form, or imagery. I am in search of that intimate and personal moment, at the juncture of
phenomena and perception.
My practice as a visual artist and director is rooted in a commitment to understanding
the world around and within me from a feminist perspective. I encounter (inhabit) the
female body as the earth body, and am studying (living) the two as parallels: all trauma
can be seen on both sites as well as all rebirth and reincarnations. I work with a range
of materials: photography, sculpture, video, performance, and drawings. The use of
character and story is also essential to my practice, but frequently becomes fragmented
and ruptured, dismantled and looped. The intersection of media and approach – these
fertile and generous, mysterious crossroads – is where the best work is made and what
interests me the most. My practice is fluid and open-ended. At its heart there is
transformation and evolution. I use drawing as a direct form of mark-making experience,
and feel that it ties me back to my earliest ancestors working in the caves. I value
photography as a way to act as my witness, the extra eyes I keep beside me that help
me see and share what I am seeing. With the performance-based projects, I work with
other artists as a collaborator and director, telling the stories of our lives in unexpected
places and experimental ways. My work moves equally between private and public,
studio and street, and in those movements I gain perspective, clarity, and voice.
Jill R. Baker
Jill Baker is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Oregon. From 2009-
2014, she lived on the Oregon Coast, a place where temperate rain forest meets the
ocean. Like the Oregon Coast, much of her work is involved with isolated towns and
stories, viewpoints and historical markers. “My projects often involve ‘finding my way,’ or
finding something where there is seemingly nothing, about exploring what is around me,
making observations, notations and sketches, and collaborations.” She holds an M.F.A.
in Intermedia from the University of Iowa and a BA in Anthropology from the University
of North Texas. Her work has been exhibited, screened, and performed throughout the