There’s a new jazz trio out at Crag Lake.
But instead of sound waves, they’re jammin’ in glass and steel.
Rusty Redbrun (Paul Baker), Burny Hüle (Ken Anderson) and Ptina Green (Jeanine Baker) aim to have 20 works for their collaborative show opening next week at Gallery 22 in downtown Whitehorse.
“We just decided to do this show as all three of us getting together and having fun. Not being precious, just making stuff,” Jeanine Baker says.
That’s why they’ve taken on stage names for the project.
Anderson set up the show with Gallery 22 curator Dan Bushnell last February. When he invited the Bakers to join him, they were thrilled.
Anderson and the Bakers have been talking about collaboration for a few years. When Jeanine spotted a course called “Blacksmithing for Artists,” being offered at Red Deer College Summer School of the Arts in 2009, she knew Ken and Paul would be interested.
Sure enough, they both signed up.
Their instructor, Shawn Cunningham, is a metal artist blacksmith based in Edmonton.
He had been part of the Emma International Collaboration project in Saskatchewan, an event that brings together 100 artists from all over the world to share expertise and create collaborative art objects. (See http://www.saskcraftcouncil.org/happening/emma.php.)
Cunningham’s influence intensified their interest in collaboration. Then, last March, the Bakers attended Collaborationz – yes, that z’s supposed to be there – an offshoot of the Emma Lake project in New Zealand. Jeanine was the glass tech in residence for that week.
The Bakers often work as a duo, creating sculptures with metal and glass components.
“I get to come in and work alongside them,” says Anderson with glee.
Spread over a table, bits of metal, sculptures in progress and glass components glint with possibilities.
The blacksmith forge lives outside the shop under a tarp roof. Propane heats the forge and a camp stove, on which sits a pressure cooker rigged to steam the wax out of the plaster moulds that will be used to cast glass.
Anderson brought waxes of some of his previously made sculptures. The Bakers, for their part, own a full range of welding equipment, plasma cutter, glass tools and kilns. Also an impressive pile of metal junk, compost for their creative garden.
The dynamic works like this sometimes:
Jeanine finds a meat grinder component and says, “Hey, this looks a lot like a caribou head.” They all look at it and say, “Yeah, it does. There’s the eye,” and so on.
Then Ken finds a part that looks like the body and Paul finds legs, and on it goes till they agree it’s done.
They’re often working on five different pieces at once, each of them doing what needs to be done to take each piece one step further.
They find and add components, asking each other to carry out the tasks that each is best at.
The guys do most of the actual welding. Jeanine is the expert in glass and line. Ken has an awesome design sense and a fine touch, and Paul’s aesthetic is rougher but tough – he knows how to make it all hold together.
The trio realizes that this particular combination is unique. That’s why they’re calling the show the First Last Greatest Retrospective Ever.
Collaboration is “not for everybody, that’s for sure,” says Paul.
They talk about perhaps adding more artists to the band, but hesitate. Finding other artists with the right kind of skills, personal compatibility and cleanup ethic is not easy.
“You have to trust each other’s opinions,” says Ken.
And, as anyone with a band knows, the more people there are, the harder it is to schedule rehearsal time.
Anderson comes out to the Bakers’ studio setup at Crag Lake, lives in his camper, and they all just plunge into the work for their “sessions.”
“Your mind has to be open to possibilities. Sometimes it doesn’t work the way you thought at first. But the beauty of this place is we have every tool to change things.”
Anderson doesn’t recall anything like this being done before in the Yukon. He figures everybody should come to the show just to see “Till death do us part,” a series of little cast-glass skulls set into hammered steel rings.
When asked what his next project will be, he just suggests this experience would be pretty hard to beat.
In January, Paul Baker will have a solo show at the Yukon Artists @ Work Gallery. He’s making birds with motorcycle fuel tanks for bodies.
Jeanine Baker is focussing on refining her torch working skills with glass, and looking forward to a collaborative show she’ll share with Paul in the spring at the Chocolate Claim.
But right now, she has a question.
“This little cat sits right on top of this. What if he was sitting on a little piling or something?”
Ken responds, “I know how to do that. Hang on a second and I’ll just show you.”
Hang on till September 8. That’s when Rusty Redbrun, Burny Hüle and Ptina Green take the stage with their sculptural riffs at Gallery 22.