Playful Pictures Turn Eye on Landscape

Now that we’re on the eve of a brisk and beautiful winter, it’s time for another walk in the Museum Park to check out the latest in our billboards project, Park Pictures. We’ve covered Park Pictures here since their inception last fall, (links here and here) and we’re enjoying three new ones installed along the paved House Creek Greenway. The Museum commissioned the billboards to encourage visitors to explore the art in the Park, and we change them regularly to feature new works by different artists.

The latest installation features work by Raleigh artist Nancy S. Baker. You may be familiar with Baker’s work; her painting The Betrayal is part of the Museum’s permanent collection and is on view on Level A in East Building.

Nancy’s billboards are fun and funky, an interesting take on existing works. “Borrowing from three exalted artists from the NCMA’s American collection, mingling highbrow and lowbrow taste, I offer up three reinvented and reconfigured tableaus of the American tradition of landscape painting,” Baker says.

Her willing (or unwilling) subjects? Bierstadt’s Bridal Veil Falls, Mignot’s Landscape in Ecuador, and Inness’s Under the Greenwood. But viewers might not recognize them—the paintings have been bisected and then digitally reflected back onto themselves, as if by a funhouse mirror or a kaleidoscope. Suddenly something familiar becomes something new, strange, and even a bit disturbing. Surrounding the altered landscapes is a border of jewels, flowers, staring eyes, and other strange elements, acting, as Baker puts it, as “a Looney Tunes memento mori, in stark contrast to the dreamy realism of the [original] paintings.”

Baker links this memento mori theme with the title of her billboard series: Home Sweet Home. As she notes, “The title, appropriated from John Howard Payne’s ubiquitous poem, reminds us that ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.’ However, the idea of home in [works such as] Mignot’s Landscape in Ecuador has become an historical rendering of a world now on the verge of self-destruction. Through no fault of Mignot, this unreliable narrative of fecund nature is testimony to our desire for fantasy. Like the oeuvre of Norman Rockwell, art can be the greatest and most convincing propaganda.” Baker’s works allow us to ponder important questions of reality vs. fiction, and how that distinction—or lack thereof—affects the natural world today.

This work, made possible by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, is part of an ongoing series of outdoor art projects, Art Has No Boundaries, commissioned by the NCMA to encourage visitors to actively explore the Museum Park.

Our Bierstadt has a history in contemporary art! Check out this post from 2008, which links the painting to an artist at the Brooklyn Museum–Ed.

One Trackback

  1. [...] be inside. To see: Norman Rockwell exhibit, John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, and Nancy Baker’s installations in the park. Going next week, during the day, by myself. [...]

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