Artist offers ‘fanciful peek into secret lives of nocturnal creatures’
“Wildlife on the Edge: Hilary Baker,” on view through March 6 at the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature in Solvang, features new and recent acrylic paintings from Ms. Baker’s Predators series alongside a new series of animal portraits on birch wood.
From a group of common pigeons to an elusive cougar, Ms. Baker’s subjects make themselves at home in urban locales inspired by Los Angeles landmarks past and present. Her alternating bright and moody color palette offers viewers a fanciful peek into the secret lives of their wild neighbors, often hidden in plain view.
“I consider my Predators portraits and present them straightforwardly.Their gaze is oblique, their confrontation with the viewer unflinching and their presence — like the past — uncompromising. It might be argued that these mostly nocturnal creatures serve as stand-ins for any city resident attempting to co-exist with a disappearing homeland,” said the artist.
On Nov. 6 from 3 to 4 p.m., the Wildling will host a special gallery talk by Ms. Baker, followed by a book signing of her recently published book, “Hilary Baker: Predators and Other L.A. Stories” (2021), which features a collection of essays on her work and includes photos of many of the paintings featured in the exhibition. To register in advance and to learn more, visit www.wildlingmuseum.org/news/2022-hilary-baker-gallery-talk.
General admission is $10 and $5 for museum members.
The exhibition also includes video and photography highlighting native wildlife in the urban landscape, providing local context for creatures who make the Central Coast home and exploring California wildlife crossings such as the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing currently underway at Liberty Canyon.
Exhibition sponsors are the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and donors to the Patti Jacquemain Exhibition Fund.
A resource table offers visitors a chance for reflection with recent news on efforts to improve wildlife habitats and how the public can better coexist with animals in an increasingly modern landscape.
A Los Angeles native, Ms. Baker grew up among Hollywood’s film and music industry professionals. She spent her childhood roaming the hills around her home in the canyons, hunting for animal bones and avoiding the occasional snake. Her subjects, ranging from baseball and wildlife to Los Angeles’ history and architecture, are depicted in her signature graphic style.
Known for their dissonant palette, her paintings hint at anxiety and mordant wit with unblinking clarity. In her film short, “Ecce Cat,” she paid homage to the sinister undercurrents of mid-century animation. Ms. Baker’s world is quarried from the strange, poetic and darkly humorous with the confidence of a painter who is in the game for the long run.
Ms. Baker received her bachelor’s degree from UCLA and her master of fine arts from the Otis Art Institute (now Otis College of Art & Design). She has exhibited throughout the United States and internationally, including The Skulptur Projekte Münster and the Institut Franco-Americain, and has been awarded residencies at the Pont-Aven School of Art, the Ucross Foundation, Art Omi, and the Yaddo and MacDowell art colonies.
Her paintings have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Peripheral Vision, Art and Cake, Artillery and New American Paintings.
Her work is included in numerous public collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Crocker Art Museum, Broad Art Foundation, Temple University and the University of Southern California.
Ms. Baker’s curatorial projects include organizing the exhibition “Archaeology” and co-curating “Sexy: Sensual Abstraction in California, 1950s -1990s,” and “Blind Courier: 9 Artists and Their Notions of Place.” Her work can be seen at r d f a, a gallery in Los Angeles.
She lives in Ojai with her husband, writer Philip DiGiacomo, in the shadow of the Topatopa Mountains.