Featured Artwork: "Five Corners" by Garin Baker

West Branch Gallery
Nov 18, 2014 11:21PM

Five Corners by Garin Baker was painted en plein air. The intersection of five streets, one of which is torn up and under repair, electric lines criss-cross above. The run-down brick buildings of a small, quiet town stand rough along the roads. There are no cars. A lone pedestrian crosses the street. Here, in this spot, an artist set up an easel and got to work.

En plein air painting often calls up images of hat-wearing artists standing in a field as a gentle breeze softly cools their sun-stung skin. And while en plein airpainting, put that way, may sound romantic (and, in all honesty, it often is), it demands that an artist trek outside with all the tools and supplies needed to work—things that are familiarly arranged in the comfort of the one’s studio—and then park themselves at a location where they can work, hopefully undisturbed, for a few hours. Given this reality, why did Baker choose this corner to set up and paint?

Five Corners was painted in Newburgh. Newburgh is a 19th Century Victorian town that overlooks the Hudson River. In its day, it was quite a successful place. Over the last 30 years, it has not been doing so well. Manufacturing has gone and malls have been built in the outskirts. It has become an enclave for social services and poverty. It deals with entrenched racism and poverty. Five Corners is one of the roughest corners in Newburgh.

Baker’s work continues along the great path of American and European Realist painters choosing simple subjects of our everyday lives, celebrating our collective humanity. Painting is also a way for Baker to engage the community. He sets up in the street with his plein air kit and gets to work. Five Corners was one of many paintings he did in Newburgh. He wanted, as an artist, to create a little gem out of one of the most decrepit areas in the city. As he painted, locals came around and sized him up and then they started asking questions and telling stories (e.g., My uncle used to draw, etc.). Working this way, Baker breaks down barriers of fear and race.

The result is a painting rich with story, a window into a world few of us will visit.

Five Corners and a selection of other paintings by Garin Baker is on view at West Branch Gallery as part of the Landscape Traditions exhibition. Landscape Traditions invites viewers to enjoy a range of styles and subjects, each equally complex, found in this genre. This gallery space introduces the works of Garin Baker, Stephanie Bush, Julia Jensen, Susan Lynn, Gary Milek, Richard Sneary, Gabriel Tempesta, Kathleen Kolb and Tad Spurgeon.

West Branch Gallery