As current resident artist Carrie Ann Baade of Tallahassee, FL and professor at Florida State University will tell you, the life of an artist is none too smooth. There are ups and downs, side to sides, and states of being one might not have expected to encounter themselves in. But through her strength of character and dedication to her craft, she perseveres. And more often than not, finds herself at a new crossroads of imaginative means at each turn.Join us now as we get a sneak peek into Carrie’s creative landscape, and a good piece of her mind to boot.
The Supposedly Shared Sorrow of Magdalene and the Crocodile
So tell us a little about yourself. Where did you begin your artistic endeavors, and how did you get to where you are as an art professor and gallery artist?
As a kid, I worried that I was not going to be as good as the old masters. My only access to art supplies was the stationary section at the grocery store in our little town in rural Colorado. There were only two choices of newsprint tablets and I preferred the one with the Indian chief on the cover because, it had a better quality of paper. Painting classes were rare but after years of my nagging, my mom found a children’s class in acrylics for me. However, I was suspicious of kids classes and acrylic sounded like something “safe”. I sought guidance from my giant book on the Louvre and looked up every single painting by every artist. I found that no one in the Louvre ever painted in acrylic…(also none of these painters were women). I wanted to paint in OIL!!!.
Up until recently, all the artists that ever I loved were dead and lined the walls of the museums. What a horrible longing pervades your soul when you believe that you were born in the wrong time! It has been a relief to show along side such contemporary artists as Kris Kuksi, Travis Louie, and Judith Schaechter and realize that this is the best time to be alive! I now know that the most extraordinary artists that ever existed are working at this present moment. If I ever had any other skills, I was reluctant to cultivate them. I am an abysmal waitress and preferred to paint houses after I graduated from art school than abandon my precious paint for a paycheck.
Teaching is the one other skill I have cultivated. I got my start in undergrad,q teaching art to people with schizophrenia and then moved on – after abandoning ideas that I could make a living as an art therapist to support my art habit. I taught at art centers off and on, while doing murals in upscale homes, until I went to graduate school where I had a teaching assistanceship. At the university, my enormous expectations of what a professor should be, nearly stopped me from being able to enter the room. I was so nervous about teaching actual college students that I scared my students the first day of class. They were freaked out by my explanation of how hard they were going to have to work for an A. But by the end of this first class, I was overjoyed….I realized something that I never really thought was possible: “I AM EMPLOYABLE!” …and perhaps eligible for benefits! Little did I know it would be years of adjuncting for peanuts before a full time gig was possible.
After grad school, I began my career showing in reputable galleries. As I have matured from a regionally emerging artist to a national emerging artist to an internationally emerging artist; it has been amusing to find that every show has felt like my first step moving up the proverbial ladder of success. However, I realize that each show has been to the first step on to a much larger ladder. I am no closer to attaining my lifetime goals but the situations are getting more substantial.
The Littlest Queen
Your work has layers of meaning, yet seems to revolve around some central female focus. Could you tell us a little about the meanings that go into your work?
I believe good art is the effective interlocking the concept with the medium, the artist’s creative process, and how this relates to the audience.
Each of my paintings start as a collage. The collage suits my desire to cram as much as possible into one single picture plane. What I like about painting the collage in trompe l’oeil is that I preserve the separateness of each the fragments. Through painting the layers, the complexity of the external world can be revealed, as is the internal world of personal identity.
Additionally, my work is autobiographical. Perhaps it could be said that this is feminist or goddess based, but being female has definitely influenced my experience. From maidenhood to marriage, and later, marriage back out into the wilderness of dating; there has been plenty to contemplate. I have found that the more personal I made my work, the more others could feel the intensity and relate. For example, I have had couple after couple approach me and tell me that they are “The Happy Whore of Babylon and the Anti-Christ” – a painting about fatalistic love between otherwise unredeemable characters.
Working allegorically has been the main tool for telling a story within a story. For Example, painter Artemisia Gentileschi did this when she was raped and then painted herself as Judith beheading Holofernes. I also layer content about my own experience while making it a part of a larger story. My preferred narratives to borrow from are morality or cautionary tales from mythology and fairy tales. In the Plague, I remixed the frog prince to reveal the perils of dating. Art has the potential to narrate and be cathartic in the telling of something that would otherwise be unspeakable or incriminating.
The Plague – early stages / collage
How much of your process is intuitive versus orchestrated or worked out before you begin painting?
The spark of the muse that could be called intuition is present when I make the collage for my work. I begin this process by covering the first floor of my house in photos and ripped out pages from books. After the floor is covered I walk around looking for images that fell on top of each other in an interesting manner. This is similar to reading tealeaves. Often I will have a question in mind while diving into the piles of picture images, such as, “What can I say about the horrors of dating in Tallahassee.” This process reminds me of reading tarot cards and getting an answer through the cards that can sometimes be uncannily accurate. Looking for the divine spark to speak to me through these images, I collect and adhere together with cellophane tape to paint later. I know something is really working if I involuntarily laugh aloud at the juxtaposition. Very little of painting has come naturally to me. I am afraid I am a “paint harder, not smarter” person. I have seen many of my students have a far superior flare and finesse for composition. I alas use the collage to rearrange, and rearrange, and rearrange the visual elements of my work until they resonate and make a worthy subject to spend a 150 hours rendering.
Plague – pen and ink
Do you feel like your works are separate unto themselves or a part of a body of larger work?
Some of the works feel more separate because I do not paint from a style but from a desire to mimetically replicate the collage source. I do know that I am not what I call a “one off” painter who paints and paints the same subject over and over. I am striving to find the correct images to tell the story I want to relate. When work is led from ideas and not visual aesthetics there is the challenge to make it stylistically relate to earlier work.
You’ve traveled a bit, could you tell us something interesting you saw or found out on your journeys?
For many years, I had a horrible wanderlust. I preferred to see art in person rather than sleep through art history classes. While I was painting my last series of paintings and I had time to reflect on my travels to 5 continents over 20 years being stuck inside my studio for months doing little else than working at my easel. I used to think that travel could cure my troubled mind; somehow that if I got far enough away from my original mindset I could gain enough perspective to see outside of myself. Often when I paint, I have to deal with myself. For the first 4 hours, I am a failure and cannot do anything right. For the next 8 hours, I am riding the wave of endless ecstasy when I can do nothing “wrong” but I cannot stop what I am doing. I call this process “from fraud to god”. I now use the stored up years of experiences to provide me a relief while I paint.
As an art professor, what draws you to that as a profession and fuels the desire to educate?
18 to 22 year olds are ALIVE. The world has not beaten them. They are infinite potential because everything is possible. I had very few teachers or professors that where effective at reaching me and I am not certain that they were reaching anyone else. I have had my suspicions that there is a high mortality rate among educators who were still recieving a paycheck.
If I can make at least a small improvement in each of my students’ experience and help them to do something it took my years to do on my own, it was all worth it. My goal in being an educator is to enhance the qualitative existence of my fellow man. If this leads to an understanding and enrichment in our culture and the human condition, then this is a pretty cool job. If I help a student realize their goal of being a professional artist, this is all the sweeter. I promised myself years ago that I must quit if I ever loose the ability to connect to the students. it is important to be a power for good.
The Perilous Compassion of the Honey Queen
Is there any other avenue of profession that you ever considered, or would like to pursue at any point?
No, what I am doing now was my goal. I hope to just get better at what I do. Being a professor is the occupation that requires that I am a professional artist while sharing my expertise.
Do you feel like there was one important point of life or a decision you’ve made that set you off on your creative mission?
Yes…all the decisions I made not to do anything else or quit.
Are there any potholes or blind alleys in the art path that you’ve come across that others might not be aware of?
Everyone’s path is unique. I love to tell students all my mistakes so they don’t do the same thing. I feel like someone should benefit from all my blaring ignorance. I try to give them advice but I think a wiser person lets others make their own decisions while giving them the tools to be their best. My current philosophy is: “Be passionate and free yourself from the expectations of its outcome.”
The Manufacturing of Tears
Do you ever feel the need to branch out into sculpture or film or the written word as avenues for your creativity?
In grad school, I was told that paint was an inadequate media to display the complexity of my ideas. I was encouraged to apply my interests to film or write a book to explain what I was thinking. I like that I have proved those people wrong. It took years of trial and error but I came up with my own unique way of realizing my vision. Perseverance is as essential as failure when manifesting your dreams.
When do you feel is the most productive time for your ideas to be most free, or most conducive to being creative?
Last year, I had a dream that I was sharing my house with Freddie Kruger. I was very annoyed because he would not go to work- terrorizing people as they slept, but instead; he insisted on being the annoying roommate who bothered me my while I tried to work. I paint at night. I like to believe that the sleeping world producing a raw energy through dreaming that I can harness into my work. The world is simpler when everyone is asleep. I have created a place where only me, and my paintings exist.
The Devil Is In the Details 5 of 6, Lilith the Protector
Is there any place you would like to produce a body of work or research a new series of ideas?
My next solo show will be in spring of 2010 at Rosenfeld Gallery in Philadelphia. This series will be of small paintings dedicated to the glorification and exploitation of illustration. I plan to pull in ideas from medieval illuminated manuscripts and great illustrators such as Beardsley, Pile, Rackham, and Parrish. After going to the Getty in LA and seeing the works by Breugal the Elder, I have purchased a magnifying visor to make it as easy as possible to achieve the level of detail for this series.
If time and money were of no object, what do you think you might undertake as your artistic mission?
I have always wished to create a large mural cycle. I have enjoyed the murals of such artists as Gustav Klimt and Thomas Hart Benton, and their ability to not only beautify and decorate an architectural space, but to also share visual culture with the public and give them the opportunity to enhance their existence.
Lady Or Tiger
Do you have any words of wisdom, or bits of advice for our readers thinking about pursuing art full time?
DO NOT BECOME AN ARTIST.
If you can do something else, do it. However, if this is what you are, god love you, it will never be an easy path. Our eyes, our hands, our minds are committed to service. It is a calling. It will demand every sacrifice of you as you serve. If this is what you are, it was never a choice to do anything else. I am not talking to those of you who create merely out moods or in seasons or way back when. I am speaking to you give blood on a regular basis. Every battle you fight, every sacrifice made to insure your survival proves your conviction that no one and nothing can tear you from your station. This is an honor. To create HERE and NOW. To be the eyes the soul of your time. We are so very privileged to have all our opportunities; this exquisite FREEDOM to express, to adorn, and to synthesize the world we live in. Humble yourself to this calling, serve with passion. Suck the marrow out life! Transform another mind, bring beauty down from the mountain to the cities of men, challenge values, and raise awareness of what it is, to be a part of this human condition. Your reward will be the singing of the stars, the humming of the spheres. To toil in the duty of tribute to culture. To live an extraordinary existence!
I challenge you TO FAIL. Fail magnificently! For it is the only way to succeed. When you finally find success it is a shock to find that this is the first in a long line proving yourself. Success is a process that pushes you to out do yourself without limit or end. As you succeed, I challenge you do so with humility and help those that who are climbing with you or behind you. If you can mentor, give someone the advice or confidence no one maybe ever gave you. Succeed so that you may be a shining example of the possible glory of being human, of being a creator. It is so much richer an existence to find yourself among friends than to find yourself alone. We are on this path together.
PS: To those who do not create art, I challenge you to support a living artist and become a collector. Artists are nothing without the belief of another person who values what they are putting into this world. You make a difference. Patronage keeps art alive. There are those amazing few who have come forward for me, they sustain me and fuel my ability to continue. If no one ever came forward for me, I would not be where I am now. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein in the Moveable Feast: – do not buy nice things, do not buy clothes, or expensive food, buy art. This is what is meaningful in this world. Invest in your culture. The artist does not need their creation. They made it for one person, the one to whom it belongs. The one person who resonates with the piece and cannot imagine their life without it.