Being and Belonging
Reflections on Jewish space
San Diego Center for Jewish Culture
Curated by Stephanie Snyder & Karen Levitov, Asst. Curator, Fine Arts,
The Jewish Museum, NY
Atara Baker’s untitled wood and mixed-media constructions are objects that appear both ritualistic and architectural. Intimate in scale, they tell the story of the artist’s personal roots in two diverse cultures that share intense and politically volatile relationships to land–South Africa and Israel.
Baker’s sculptures begin with found wood that is then worked hard: burned, bound, painted, nailed ad gauged. An accomplished painter, one can read this sensibility in the richly textured surfaces that emerge during Baker’s intensive working process. The smudged and muted colors that Baker works into the wood–burnt red, white and yellow to name a few-are reminiscent of African forms of body decoration.
Like ceremonial tools, antique weapons or the architectural fragments of indigenous dwellings, Baker’s sculptures are grounded in sense of place that feels far removed from the polished hyperactivity of first-world societies. Baker draws our attention toward the South, focusing us on the migrations and divergences of Jewish diaspora and the tribal routes of Jewish culture.