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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: October 23, 2017

Krisanne Baker’s paintings about water on view in Waldoboro

Written by: Bob Keyes
Detail from "Plankton, Night Tow II," oil and phosphorescent pigment on canvas, 24 by 12 inches. Photos by Krisanne Baker

Detail from “Plankton, Night Tow II,” oil and phosphorescent pigment on canvas, 24 by 12 inches.
Photos by Krisanne Baker

It’s a simple statement, but there’s no escaping its inherent truth: Water is life.

Waldoboro artist Krisanne Baker reinforces the notion of water as an all-sustaining, all-important element in her new solo exhibition, “Immersion: Gulf of Maine,” on view through November at her hometown Tidemark Gallery on Main Street.

The paintings in this show stem from a series of recent artist residencies, including one last summer at Appledore Island in the Isle of Shoals, where Baker snorkeled in the intertidal zone and studied microscopic plankton with scientists associated the Shoals Marine Laboratory. She is an educator, ecologist and activist, and her paintings express her wonder at the wholeness of the planet and the role of water in keeping it healthy. She made most of these paintings at night to capture the reflection of moonlight on the water, as well as the gentle phosphorescent sea life.

“I compare all the water on this planet to the lungs of this planet,” Baker said. “Water is like the veins in our body, pumping constantly through as it keeps respirating and raining, journeying through the tides and currents, rivers and streams. It keeps going around and always comes back around. Water connects us all. If we want to be healthy, we have to take care of the water and everything that’s part of it.”

"Plankton, Night Tow III," oil and phosphorescent pigment on canvas, 48 by 16 inches.

“Plankton, Night Tow III,” oil and phosphorescent pigment on canvas, 48 by 16 inches.

And that includes the tiniest phytoplankton. A lifelong ocean swimmer and snorkeler, Baker has long observed the phytoplankton of the Gulf of Maine and this summer had the chance to study it in detail as part of her Shoals Marine Lab residency. She turned several of her experiences with phytoplankton under the microscope into large-scale oil paintings, showing the complexities and beauty of the photosynthesizing organisms.

By their very nature, Baker’s paintings concern climate change and environmental hazards, but this is not a political exhibition. There are no direct references to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or the pipeline protests at Standing Rock – or the drinking water scare right now in Puerto Rico – but those flash points are implied in the urgency of this work. For most of the past decade, Baker has focused her artistic practice on the relationship between the ocean and land, and how human practices upset that balance.

Baker earned her bachelor’s degree in painting from Rhode Island School of Design and got a master’s degree in ecological arts from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She teaches art at Medomak Valley High School and will continue her aqua outreach with an artist residency at Berwick Academy in South Berwick. Her work there will focus on raising ocean awareness by engaging students in research about endangered and threatened ocean species, and then directing them as they create jewel-like glass structures.

Krisanne Baker: “Immersion: Gulf of Maine”

WHERE: Tidemark Gallery, 902 Main St., Waldoboro
WHEN: Through November; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday
INFO: tidemarkgallery.com, 832-5109

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