As sculptor Barbara Baer placed finishing touches on her installation “Pleasure Ground” at Spark Gallery on Aug. 27, she planned to set the gallery lighting the next day.
“We should get some good shadow play,” she said, talking of her process in placing the new work in Spark, where she will collaborate with two artists whose work is remarkably compatible with hers, although each has a distinctive style.
Baer’s “Pleasure Ground” fills half the main gallery space as one enters Spark, at Ninth Avenue and Santa Fe Drive. Kelly Cannon’s “Imagined and Observed” — work based on maps, data and landscapes — flows across walls to meet Baer’s installation.
Annalee Schorr’s mathematical “Rhomboid” in the North Gallery is glimpsed through a doorway. It includes four Plexiglas rhomboid structures, each striped with precisely patterned duct tape, a patterning that extends to the floor.
Baer said the cooperative gallery plans its exhibits for the year with hopefully compatible combinations of members’ artworks. This combination is particularly pleasing to a viewer’s eye.
Baer started planning in early spring, taking careful measurements of the gallery and its movable wall panels, forming an agreement with Cannon about placement of the large moving panels, which cannot be stored elsewhere. She has put them flat against the walls.
She built a small model and planned her “Pleasure Ground,” inspired by memories of historic gardens she has visited, including Versailles. “I love old gardens,” she said.
Human-scaled figures are placed along a curving path, which was designed after drawings made by the original garden planners at Versailles centuries ago. The path’s all-over black and white pattern comes from repeats of a photograph of Baer’s lawn grass, copied onto sheets of mailing labels and pieced together. Areas of this grass image flow up onto the walls in geometric forms that continue the garden path look.
The individual figures are varied in size as human visitors would be and invite a viewer to walk around and between them. “We connect to objects that resonate,” she observed. They are created from a weatherproof foam board and covered with an outdoor fabric, all cut with scissors and stitched in varied designs. (Individual weatherproof pieces will be for sale and can be placed in outdoor gardens.)
Above them float a series of brightly colored shapes, cut from transparent plastic, each centered with a small repeat of the standing figures’ motif. They move with air currents and suggested a floating poppy field to me.
“I’ve been making art a long time,” said Baer, who has created large, abstract public art installations across the country and in Europe and Japan. “If it’s a public art commission, you do it so carefully. Why not enjoy a show in a gallery?” she asked herself and rejoined Spark, where she had previously been a member. “This can be spontaneous, with different trims and patterns — so fun. I got hungry to exhibit again. Most art in public places is really missed … Here, one can count on space about every 18 months.”
She speaks of the relationship of her works to theater, a favorite art form, where the set design holds special appeal.
Baer’s public art works are found through the south suburban area: floating high at Littleton’s city hall (“Open Skies”), at South Suburban’s Goodson Center in Centennial (“Life in Motion”) and seated in ground locations at the Englewood Transit Plaza, Pine Grove Elementary School in Parker and in the Douglas County Art Encounters collection at Lone Tree.
A Denver resident, she grew up in Louisiana and has a bachelor of fine arts from Tulane University (1971), followed by a master of fine arts sculpture (1978) from the University of Colorado at Boulder (1978).