Leslie Baker shows in Boston
File photo by Ralph Stewart
West Tisbury painter Leslie Baker is one of a select few Vineyard artists who belong to Boston's prestigious Copley Society of Art. This month she is being honored with a one-woman show, Saved Views, which will run through Friday, October 8.
The title comes from the work of poet Mary Oliver whose words inspired Ms. Baker to ask herself, "If she can touch me with her words, how can I do that with paint?" Artists, Ms. Baker concluded, save views.
Referring to the small percentage of conserved space on Island versus built-up space, she suggests individuals can participate in saving the Island's views, whether by getting rid of invasive species in the garden or by picking up cans and debris on the beach.
Ms. Baker's depictions of Island landscapes have generated a following at the Shaw Cramer Gallery in Vineyard Haven, where she is represented on the Island. Her landscapes make up the bulk of the Copley exhibit. They are not portraits of places, but approximations of the mystery of a place and the way she feels about it.
With 22 pieces in the Copley show, some of the work consists of plein-air studies, which reveal the process — where it starts — used to create her larger landscapes. "I may use the study as a jumping-off point," she explains. "I'm paying more attention to what's on the canvas."
Ms. Baker describes herself as very aware of her surroundings — in the studio that means the paint, the canvas, the mixing. She does not simply transcribe what appears before her.
A member of the Copley Society since 2005, Ms. Baker was invited to apply for her one-woman show three years ago. She submitted a proposal of what she wanted to do and asked for the Society's Upper Gallery because she wanted space for large paintings. Both requests were granted.
"Then you start working," she says. "I knew what I wanted. I like to give people things to think about. A show like this is just like writing a big book."
Twelve very big works resulted, including a triptych of Long Point on a hazy day. "I also picked some previous work that suited the show," Ms. Baker says. "I hadn't mounted a show this size since my early thirties."
"I'm 61 now. It's different," she adds. The physical demands of lifting the 40- by 60-inch cradle panels, the repetition of picking up a big brush and moving back and forth for hours took its toll. "I was so sore. You might as well be a house painter," she jokes.
West Tisbury massage therapist Joanne Scott kept her going. "Thank goodness for yoga classes, a healthy lifestyle, and walks with friends," she says.
The advantage of being a member of the Copley Society comes through in the opportunities it offers Ms. Baker to show her work in a noncommercial space on a regular basis. "Your body of work may not appeal to commercial galleries," she explains. "It encourages you to stretch."
"I have this huge triptych that very few galleries on the Island would be able to take," she says. Of the opportunity to work on a larger scale, she says, "It changes how the work looks. I am very interested in the quality of light. It becomes clearer; the colors sing. The mystery I'm after becomes more apparent, and my intent is more met."
The Copley Society, 158 Newbury Street, Boston. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm; Sunday, 12 noon to 5 pm.