Atara Baker  



Born and raised in Israel.
Soon after military duty, Atara traveled to Italy and studied Sculpture at the Academia Della Arte in Rome under world renowned sculptor Emilio Greco.  In London, she studied the human form in various schools; in New York, spent some time at the Art Students League and, in Los Angeles, at Los Angeles City College.

Atara moved on to new experiences in South Africa, studying full-time under well-known artists, Bill Ainslie, in his own school, for six years, and Noel Bisseker at the Johannesburg College of Art, and generally accumulated a great deal of experience concerning her deep interest in the meanings of color and its relationship to observed form.  The culturally integrated tribal life, particularly that of the Bushman people, manifested in the richly textured lifestyles and artifacts which she encountered in South Africa, to a great extent shaped her present artistic expression, in which color, as always, and the primeval play important roles.  Late in 1979, Atara settled in San Diego, California, where she studied under the late Gary Hansmann, an intensely committed printmaker, who proved to be a prime catalyst in her efforts to translate her African experiences into oil and mixed media.

The resulting “masks” that have evolved since are an interpretation of my life experiences in two diverse cultures that share an intense and politically volatile relationship to the land: in Israel, where I was born and bred, and in South Africa, where I was exposed to the many inequities of life and differing artistic philosophies.

Atara has been a member of the San Diego Artists Guild and San Diego Art Institute, and her work is in private collections in South Africa, San Diego, Los Angeles and Palo Alto, California, Olympia and Seattle, Washington State, Ohio, Colorado, Utah, Chicago, IL, New Haven, Connecticut, New York, Mexico and Israel, and is at present working from her studio in La Mesa, Ca.



I have generally accumulated a great deal of experience concerning the meanings of color and its relationship to observed form.

On that level, my work, including my sculpture, constitutes a contemporary perspective on the relationships of color and pattern in primitive societyOn another level, my “masks” are an interpretation of my life experiences in two diverse cultures that share an intense and politically volatile relationship to the land: in Israel, where I was born and bred, and in South Africa, where I spent a decade of my middle adulthood.

They reflect a search for the primeval in oneself and the connections to one’s roots, and attempt to scratch at the surface of the present to reveal personal (Israeli) and ancient (tribal) cultural memories through an exploration of the forms of expression of the anonymous (tribal) artists who created both the paintings on the walls of ancient caves and the ritual masks.

There is a close connection between the “primitive” modes of these drawings/paintings and mask making, and the “modern” modes of drawing/painting and object making which have sought to express themselves in a “new” way: in short, a close similarity in the mode of expression in primitive art to that of modern artists.

My “masks” accordingly serve as tiny illustrations of the recurrent “laws” of representation which appear in human history and the tradition that connects past and present artistic expressions. The images embody values and beliefs that survive eras, becoming part of an eternal visual vocabulary that floats in collective memory. To this end, expression of time is of the essence, and is compressed into a dense abraded surface; the colors I use are, for the most part, primeval: earth-toned and evocative of soot-smudged cave walls.  These works are intended to be impenetrable, appropriate to the “Darkest Continent”; we may consider them as semi-abstract signs, as though the vegetable and animal worlds have undergone some reductive process, with the source of their vitality nevertheless taken from nature: we live in nature and are influenced by it.

On a more mundane level, my work relates to the lifestyles of both the diverse and culturally integrated communities in South Africa, particularly that of the Bushman (San) people of the Kalahari Desert, and that of the besieged population of a village at the top of a mountain called Masada in Israel who committed suicide rather than submit to the Romans about 135 CE..

It can be said to be reminiscent both of (and inspired by) the African tribal masks we have collected and encountered over the years, and the tattered remains of textiles found in the caves of Masada which were created with basically the use of only three dyes – yellow, red and blue, taken from plant roots and minerals, and which I use as the basis of the colors for most of my pieces.

Because of the similarities of these remnants to the materials used on African artifacts, I had found a link between my Israeli background, with its childhood memories of striped talit and robes worn by members of the orthodox religious sect, and my African experiences, and a way to express that connection in the textured surfaces, muted banded colors and materials in my work (such as burlap/jute, wood spools, and binding twine, which for the most part is found in my constructions in the form of copper or galvanized metal wire, or implied in my paintings by strips or rolled cheesecloth that stretch from edge to edge.)

Other links between these cultures involved the layering (new over old) of Bushman cave paintings which inspired the “palimpsest” quality of many of my pieces; handprints laid over the paintings to establish the ownership of their creators, which led to the Jewish symbol of Yad, the hands (or, for the most part, fingerprints) I place over almost all my pieces.  Each piece is also part of the whole and tells its story best in accompaniment with the others, just as both primitive and present-day cultures do with their icons.





1977 South Africa: Designed and exhibited a poster for the Fine Art Museum in Johannesburg.

1978 South Africa: All Media Annual Group Show, Rosebank Art Centre, Johannesburg.

1981 San Diego: Group Show, Portfolio Gallery, Grossmont Centre; collection of A.R.T. Beasley Gallery, Old Town.

San Diego: 27th Annual Juried Group Show at San Diego Art Institute, Balboa Park.


1982 San Diego: Three-person exhibition at the La Jolla Art Association, La Jolla.
Del Mar: Art in all media 1982, Annual Group Show, Southern California Exposition.

1983 San Diego: Two-person exhibition at the La Jolla Art Association    Gallery, La Jolla
1984: San Diego: Gaslamp Council Annual Juried Show. (Painting No. II-11/84); San Diego: Group Show:  “Shamanism” at Multicultural Arts Center Gallery;San Diego: Guest artist at San Diego Museum of Art, African Art Committee’s fund raising ball, “Kanaga Affair.”  Featured on Channel 10 (ABC)’s “International Hour.”

1985 San Diego: Solo exhibition at San Diego Public Library.

San Diego: Two-person show at Gallery 5, Hillcrest.

1987 San Diego: San Diego Artists Guild Open Award Show, San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park –Award Winner. (II-27/87)


1988 New York: “Art Horizons” International Art Competition - Certificate of Excellence.

1989 Rancho Cucamonga, California: “Spirit Keepers”: Group Show at Wignall Museum/Gallery of Chaffey College.
Grants Pass,Oregon: Two-person Show at Grants Pass Museum of Art.

San Diego: Two-person Show at “Art Corner Gallery”, Standard Brands.

San Diego: “Echoes of Time and the River:” Four-person Show at Calhoun Design Center Gallery.San Diego: In collection of Peter Hall Gallery.  (II-30/87, 34/88, 38/88, 44/89, 47/89)


1991 Palo Alto,  California: Two-person show at Pacific International Art Gallery.
Los Angeles: “Emerging Visions”: Juried Exhibition at Melrose Village Gallery,Sponsored by CC&W, Inc. Art Corporation.  (II-47/90)

San Diego: Invitational Group Show: “Six Signatures/Multi-Media” at Martin Wagner Gallery, East County Jewish Community Center.

Los Angeles: Group Exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Art Rental Gallery.

Las Vegas: Solo Show at Reed Whipple Cultural Center Art Gallery.

San Diego: Solo Show at Upstairs Gallery, Hillcrest. (Series III)
1993 Los Angeles: “Art of Life and Time.”  Four-person Show at Platt Gallery, University of Judaism, Bel Air.

Los Angeles: Two-person Show at Burbank Creative Arts Center Gallery.

San Bernardino: 28th Annual Open Exhibition - Fine Arts Institute at San Bernardino County California Museum.  Award Winner for II-63/91.



1994 San Diego: Monthly Juried Shows, San Diego Art Institute, Mission Valley.

San Diego: San Diego Art Institute, Midsummer Open Award Show, Mission Valley.  (II-69/92, III-17/93).

1995 San Diego: Two-person Show at Nobel Art Gallery, Mission Hills.

Santa Monica, CA: Group show at Spring Gallery
1996 Minneapolis, Minnesota: In Collection of Gallery 416, for Artwalk.

Santa Monica, CA: Group show at Spring Gallery


1998 Del Mar, CA: Solo Show at Iconica Gallery.

Seattle, WA: Solo Show at Mwoyo Arts.


1999 Minneapolis, MN: Group exhibition at Grand Opening of  relocated Gallery 416.

West Hollywood/Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, CA: Group exhibition at Grand Opening of Studio Gallery, Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood

Santa Ana, CA: Featured artist in 4-person show at The British Lime Gallery.
Seattle, WA: Solo show at Mwoyo Arts.
San Diego: Solo show at California Cuisine Restaurant, Hillcrest.


2000 San Diego: “Painters for the Millennium: Twelve Important San Diego Artists”: group exhibition at Earl and Birdie Taylor Library, Pacific Beach.

Carlsbad, CA: In collection of Gallerie D’Art International for gallery opening. San Diego, CA: Solo show at Earl and Birdie Taylor Library, Pacific Beach

2002 San Diego, CA Athenaeum Music and Arts Library 11th Annual Juried Exhibition: 2nd Place Award  for ll-62/91    (ll-60,62)

Solo show at The City Treasurer’s Office  Cova Group Show Commemorating 9/11 at San Diego Art College: Sculpture Installation/Series Vll/02 on bases

2003 San Diego, CA.: “Being And Belonging: Reflections On Jewish Space”: Curated Invitational Group Show at the Gotthelf Gallery,Jewish Community Center, La Jolla: Sculpture Installation/Series Vll/03

New York, NY: Group Exhibition at New Art Center, Manhattan:Sculpture Installation/Series Vll/03

2004 La Jolla, CA.: In collection of Gallery Jan for exhibit New York, NY: Group Exhibition, New Art Center, Manhattan:

Works On Paper/Series V Laguna Beach, Ca: Group Exhibition, Diane DeBilzan Gallery:Works On Paper/Series V and VI

2006 Los Angeles, CA: Collection Exhibition, Lacy Primitive and Fine Arts Gallery.Berkley, CA: Group Exhibition, Spirits In Stone Gallery:Works On Paper/Series V  New York, NY: Collection Exhibition, HP Garcia Gallery, Manhattan: Works On Paper/Series V

2007 Kibbutz Ginosar, Israel Two-person show at Bet Alon Center Museum (featuring works on paper and wood /assemblage sculptures)

2010 Brooklyn, NY Three-person show at Henry Gregg Gallery: Series II / paintings, mm/oils on canvas.

2011 San Diego, CA Solo Show at Heritage Art Restoration Gallery

2012 San Diego, CA Solo Show at Mesa College Art Gallery

La Mesa, CA Solo Show at O’Dunn Fine Arts Gallery





1985 San Diego: Daily California - Delia Elliot San Diego: The Tribune, Friday, July 26, 1985 – Mark-Elliot Lugo

1989 Grants Pass, Oregon: Daily Courier, Friday, July 14, 1989 - Tom Braman

1990 Los Angeles: Los Angeles Times, Friday, July 11, 1990 - Leah Ohlman

1991 Napoli, Italy: HYRIA: Cultura E. Societa Della Nova Europa,

June - September 1991 - Maurizio Vitiello Napoli, Italy:  Nord e Sud, July - December 1991 - Maurizio Vitiello  Considerazioni Su Tre Artisti: Atara-Baker, Salvatore Cotugno eInfante.

1993 San Diego: SAJAC Reporter, San Diego

1995 Tokyo, Japan: International Art Scene, Asahi Art Communication Co. Ltd, Vol. No. 5, November 1995: Spring Art Gallery, Santa Monica

1996 Tokyo, Japan: International Art Scene, Asahi Art Communication Co.Ltd.,Vol. No. 10, November 1996: Artist Profile.

1999 San Diego, CA Cedros Review, Vol. No. 3, Issue 9, Spring 1999: Artist Profile.
2000 San Diego, CA Décor & Style, July Issue: Artist Profile.

2012 San Diego, CA San Diego Union Tribune On-line review, February            2012 – Kevin Winger (San Diego Mesa College exhibit)

San Diego Union Tribune, Arts Section/Sketchbooks:       Excerpts from the Art Blog, February 29, 2012 – Kevin Winger
rSan Diego Jewish World review, January 13, 2012-Don Harrison (O'Dunn Fine Arts Gallery exhibit)