Boats, fish and human figures cavort through the Yukon Art Society Gallery in Paul and Jeanine Baker’s Fired and Formed exhibition of collaborative works in metal and glass.
In Autumn Wind, twisty spot-welded twigs cling to a burl to suggest a wind-blown tree. Torch-worked leaves scatter across the plinth as if blown off by that same wind.
Welded-aluminum pipe slices assemble a torso for the Perpetual Shop Calendar Girl. She sports a bikini of blue stained glass, soldered into the backs of selected slices.
Several styles of cast-glass and metal-rod boats are dry docked. Stylized fish etched into a fisherman’s dory of cast recycled window glass seem almost like the vessel’s lucky charm.
The pair scavenged most of the metal for the show from Carcross, Tagish and Whitehorse dumps.
Angel-fish-shaped Silverfish swim across walls, in cast glass, with fork and butter-knife fins. According to hand-lettered wall labels, “The increasingly rare second-hand fork inspired these fish to evolve to include other bits of silverware to adorn their cast-glass bodies.”
Along with the glass and metal Butterflies Flutter By, hanging from the ceiling, these small items have sold well.
Katherine Alexander’s bugs, folded from forks, also sold well in the pre-Christmas season. Truly, the second-hand fork is becoming a desirable raw material for building small animals and insects.
Curator Sandra Storey says that since the evening of the opening was below -30, she wasn’t expecting the crowd of more than 100 art lovers who thronged the opening.
To Storey, the atmosphere seemed that of a merry auction. One red sticker led to another.
“It’s encouraging with the way the market is. The pieces are reasonably priced and really appealing.”
It’s unusual for an artist to have two shows at Arts Underground within a year and a half. However, Jeanine Baker lures other artists into her artistic adventures. She instigated last year’s Colours show, with Daphne Mennell and Lise Merchant, and applied again for this collaboration with her husband.
The two communicate with drawings, Jeanine reports. She might say, “I need a support that looks like this,” and they look for metal of the right shape. The flavour of these drawings comes across in the quirky hand-lettered and decorated labels beside each piece.
At their opening, Paul Baker shrugs. “We’ve always worked well together,” he says, referring to their house-building history. Their collaborative show “seemed like a natural progression”.
The pair moved to an “affordable” cabin on their Crag Lake property, near Carcross, in 1988. They researched log construction and started to build a house, intending to sell it and buy their “dream land”.
They built the foundation, and cut, transported and peeled the logs themselves. After three rounds of logs, they were hired to build log houses in Japan, near Osaka. There they “learned how to finish” their Yukon house.
By the time they finished the house, with its handmade fireplace and staircase, it contained “too much heart and soul” to sell. “We thought it would be far more valuable to ourselves than to anyone else.”
The pair have just clad to weather their new shop near Mount Sima. “We just like building stuff,” Jeanine muses.
Jeanine calls their shop-building time a “working holiday”. She says Paul was talking about how much work it was, but she said, “I heard you singing away.”
“Now he talks about ‘building’ humans,” Jeanine says of Paul’s figurative work. His sense of structure is evident in his well-enunciated feet in this show.
Jeanine reflects that Paul’s sense of creating three-dimensional structures is rubbing off on her. From the flat formats of stained-glass windows, Jeanine is moving into the depths and lines of cast glass.
She makes a form in clay, creates a plaster mould from that and melts the glass into the mould. In these 3D pieces, she’s finding some of her strongest work to date.
Fired and Formed is at Arts Underground until Feb. 4.