‘Moments of Clarity’ exhibit: Husband-and-wife artist duo team up

In a household where both partners are artists and make a living by doing so, the topic of art must come up all the time — or perhaps never.

Britany Baker is a multimedia artist who paints, sculpts, photographs, designs — you name it — and works full-time as a designer for The Voice-Tribune. Frankie Steele is a local photographer and videographer who has freelanced for most media outlets at one time or another and also runs his own photography studio.

The husband-and-wife duo also operate Art Sanctuary in their spare time, and the venue/gallery space is where they’ve decided to host one of their first collaborative exhibitions, “Moments of Clarity,” which opens Friday, Sept. 7. …


‘Untethered’ Images by Jennifer Martin and Britany Baker


By J. Cobb

‘Unthethered’ takes two of Louisville’s most-proficient artists on a flight into the province of photography. Their keen skills of composition, color and texture flourish in their photographs, with swooping perspectives. “My goal is to use my camera like Alice’s rabbit hole, to open an unexplored world, a place of curious self-expression,” said Martin. Baker, who is the art director for LEO’s parent company, Red Pin Media, said, “These photographs are a part of my practice that I hadn’t considered sharing before, but realized that they have a beauty of their own.” An opening reception will take place Friday, Aug. 10 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 10–Sept. 8

Surface Noise

600 Baxter Ave.

Two artists soar outside their comfort zones in Surface Noise’s ‘Untethered’


By Sara Havens | August 7, 2018 4:00 pm

The simple definition of “untethered” is to release or free from a tether. That term serves as the title for Surface Noise’s latest exhibit, and it’s also the theme for both participating artists, who stepped outside their typical process to create photography for the show.

“Untethered: Images by Jennifer Martin and Britany Baker” opens Friday, Aug. 10, at the Highlands record store/art gallery.

Several of the more than 40 photographs focus on nature — birds more specifically — which also plays to the theme. And while Martin is comfortable behind a camera lens, often taking photos for various events around town, this is Baker’s first exhibit of photography. The artist typically paints with oils and/or charcoal.

According to Martin’s artist statement, she’s pushed herself beyond her comfort zone to truly capture her subjects’ essence.

“My goal is to use my camera like Alice’s rabbit hole,” she says in the statement. “To open an unexplored world, a place of curious self-expression, but also a world of new relationships, new chances, new beginnings and, most importantly, new stories.”

Martin will have more than 30 pieces in “Untethered.”

Insider Louisville reached out to Baker to learn more about her first foray into exhibiting photography professionally and how the show came about.

She says that while her paintings often require her to take photos of the subject matter beforehand, she never considered showing off her photography until Surface Noise curator and friend Joni Tamalonis met her for drinks one night.

She asked Baker if she knew anyone who would like to share an exhibit with Martin, and Baker’s answer was — “Me.”

“This is kind of a leap of faith for me,” says Baker. “Taking photographs has been part of my practice over the last couple of years. It helps me figure out color and composition, but mainly it’s a way to really zoom in and see the details of real things for the sake of abstraction.”

But to take those photos and display them on a gallery wall made her a bit uncomfortable at first.

“The idea of exhibiting them like this is scary and, at the same time, strangely freeing — like leaping from the nest untethered,” she says. “I’m looking forward to seeing them hanging together like this. I feel a little exposed, but sometimes it’s good to take a look at your own raw insides.”

Baker will have 13 pieces in the show.

An Artist Abroad


The Voice-Tribune Art Director Britany Baker embarks on an artistic European adventure

By Britany Baker

“If you could go to any one city in the world, where would you go?” my soon-to-be husband asked. I quickly flipped through one of my art history books and informed him: “Amsterdam.” The Netherlands turned out to be a great place to honeymoon. We were in our own little bubble together with the outside world full of calm, healthy, movie-set-beautiful inhabitants whizzing by on their bicycles and speaking their incomprehensible languages. It was just us and some of the best paintings humans had ever made. I never expected that 15 years later I’d be back, only this time I was there to intentionally make connections with other people in the art world.

In January of this year, my talented artist friend Sabra Crockett stood in my studio and told me about the Great Meadows grant she received to attend Salon, a decorative painting conference in Leeuwarden in the Spring. “It’s made up of some of the best painters in the world – painters from London and Versailles, painters who work for the Vatican, painters trained by the masters, this guy,” she said, pointing to my copy of “The Art of Faux” by Pierre Finkelstein, widely accepted as the sourcebook for learning decorative painting. Well, now I had to go with her.

We flew together to Amsterdam, where we stayed for a couple of days recovering from jetlag and touring museums. We then took a train to Leeuwarden, the 2018 European cultural capital, where we stayed in a charming Airbnb run by a very young, helpful host named Wilke. His apartment had a ladder in the center that led out to a little roof patio from which you could see a great deal of this charming city.

The Conferences

Salon is a non-profit organization that got its start in 1992 when a group of professional decorative painters in Brussels decided to establish a global structure for keeping the traditions of decorative painting alive and well. Once a year, for 23 years, a growing number of artists, teachers, craftspeople, professional painters and art preservationists convene to share their incredible wealth of knowledge with one another and with the general public.

Each year the conference is held in a different country, returning to the U.S. approximately every third year. It consists of opening and closing celebrations, demonstrations, lectures and an exhibition of new work made for that year’s theme. 

It also features each of the participating artists working over the course of four days on pieces specifically designed to demonstrate some aspect of their experience as painters. Imagine having access to the best in your craft, in the world, all in one room, doing what they do right there in front of you. You can walk right up and watch them – masters at work – and see what tools they use, how they hold them, the brand of paint and the cup for their medium. You can ask them anything you want. They are there because they believe that sharing what they know not only makes them better at what they do, but because when they’re gone, someone needs to know how to patch the marble on the columns at the Vatican or the ancient processes for egg tempera.

I remember when I first started learning scenic art – the application of decorative painting for the purpose of theater or film – I felt as if I’d finally landed on my home planet and found my people. I definitely felt that again with this group. Humble, welcoming and supportive, these artists make you feel like you belong. As Dru Blair, one of the participating members put it, “If I can do this, anyone can.” I’m pretty sure that’s not true – he’s amazing – but that spirit is pervasive.

This was Sabra’s third year in attendance at Salon and her second year participating. In order to join this group, you need to be invited by a member and pass the application process and it’s recommended that one first attends as a guest before attempting to join in. I was there in Leeuwarden as Sabra’s guest but was welcomed by the group as if I had always been part of their community.

In contrast to Salon, TRAC2018 or The Representational Art Conference, was much headier. It was a gathering of more than just artists and educators; there were also philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists, critics, museum and gallery professionals and art historians. There were lectures and panel discussions pertaining to myriad aspects of representational art. Perhaps the most interesting of the speakers was the infamous Odd Nerdrum, the eccentric Norwegian self-proclaimed “kitsch” painter and renowned teacher with a cult-like following. He wore his typical Renaissance-style artist tunic, as did his wife and son, who joined him as a sort of entourage.

In his lecture on the evils of Kant and the philosophical “invention” of modern art, he equated the modern-day contemporary art establishment with Nazis – I kid you not. At one point during the panel discussion on establishing worldwide standards for art education, one of the panelists asked for Odd’s opinion, and we all turned around to find him in the back row flossing his teeth. I should point out that Nerdrum’s paintings are ethereal in a way that seems from another time and his lecture was both thought-provoking and a conversation starter, to say the least.

Getting Around

The Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is recognized as having such effective signage, including its use of color, placement and pictograms, that it’s referred to as “The Schiphol Standard.” I found that signage all over the Netherlands was clear and easily understandable regardless of your native language, particularly with respect to transportation. The train stations there felt low-stress, in part due to the ease with which you could buy a ticket and find your train. There is a shift in materials and color in the roadways indicating where pedestrians should be versus bicyclists. They use what’s known as a “Dutch junction,” which provides a safer way for bicyclists to turn across motorized traffic. The Dutch have the safest bicyclists in the world, and yet the use of bike helmets is almost non-existent. Traveling in the Netherlands, you get the sense that the Dutch are more civilized, maybe even more evolved.

Then, of course, there are the canals. Less of a means of daily transportation and more of a means of sightseeing, the canals in Amsterdam add not only charm to this Venice of the north, but they make the trees and buildings sparkle with the twinkling of reflected uplighting. The Salon group took a tour via the canals in Leeuwarden and got a leisurely history lesson from one of the many retired citizens who now volunteer as ambassadors for the city.

Access to Artwork

Along with the conferences and socializing with the artists, Sabra and I also visited a number of museums including the Fries Museum and its exhibit of Leeuwarden native, M.C. Escher; the Rijksmuseum, home to Dutch masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Gogh, etc.; the contemporary museums Stedelijk and Groninger; and Amsterdam’s permanent Body Worlds exhibit, “The Happiness Project,” which contains anatomical specimens of real human bodies judiciously deconstructed using the Austrian method of plastination.

For painters, visiting art in person is a must. Of course, you can see a lot of this art in a book or online, but you can’t see how thick Rembrandt’s highlight was until you’re standing in front of the painting.

The Art of Dutch Eating

Given that they’re known for things like patatje oorlog, a Dutch favorite made of French fries (chips) with mayonnaise, onions, peanut sauce and curried ketchup, I was a little surprised that most of the food I was served in the Netherlands was quite healthy. The salads were interesting without being sweet. The wheat bread was some of the best I’ve had anywhere. Apparently, asparagus was in season while we were there – it seemed to always be on the menu – and not just the green, big-as-my-finger kind either. They have a white variety that’s larger and milder than the green and is considered a delicacy. At the closing Salon dinner, we had a dish of raw herring that was grayish in color and strange looking (one of the artists said it looked like “chicken brains”) but was excellent in flavor and texture. We were served a lot of meat dishes during the formal Salon dinners, but they were accompanied by fresh vegetables, fantastic Dutch cheeses and, of course, plenty of wine.

The food in the Netherlands was delightful, but it was almost secondary to the socializing we did during our meals, including dinner with one of the founders of Salon, Jan Berghuis. We dined in a converted prison, where we talked about art, music and how adorable the Netherlands is.

The variety of restaurants, especially in Amsterdam, was at least as extensive as anywhere I’ve been in the U.S. On our last night in the Netherlands, we met up with some friends of Cynthia Norton, an artist here in Louisville who performs under the name “Ninny.” Tom Ritchford, an electronic musician and computer programmer/software engineer originally from London; his wife, contemporary painter Rachel Eckstein Ritchford; and their friend, Jon Giles, a video artist visiting them from New York City, had dinner with us at an Indonesian restaurant just a few blocks from our home base in the city center. Indonesia was a Dutch colony for almost 150 years and they still have a large presence in the Netherlands today. A Google search for Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam turns up 77 results. We ate at one called Aneka Rasa, where we ordered the Vegetarian Rice Table consisting of 14 dishes each better than the next.

After dinner, we walked to a bar called Café t Genootschap der Geneugten or “The Fellowship of Pleasure Café” and ordered a Hopus, a Belgian beer known for the sediment, that our hosts ritualistically poured into shot glasses and drank separately. We also ordered a flight of flavored jenevers, a Dutch gin dating back as far as the 16th century. When served with beer, the combination is called a “kopstoot” or “headbutt.” Served in tulip glasses, these colorful liquors were not my cup of tea except for the liquorice one, which luckily, no one else cared for. In general, however, liquorice is very popular in the Netherlands with the Dutch consuming more liquorice per capita than anywhere else in the world, according to stuffdutchpeoplelike.com. Their version of the candy, called “drop,” is generally saltier than ours and can be bought almost anywhere.

That last night, as Sabra and I walked home, I realized I had just made somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 new friends. I was struck once again by the sense of community I felt with the artists I had met from all over the world and the feeling of belonging, not just with a global arts community but in the Netherlands in general. The weather was perfect from the time we arrived in Leeuwarden until our last morning in Amsterdam. Several locals pointed out to us that it’s usually much colder and rainier than it was during our time there and that our trip appeared to be charmed. I admit I felt a bit as though I was being wooed and could imagine myself living out my days in the most charming country I’ve ever been to. As the Dutch would say when they find something they love, “It koe minder.” VT

The Grant That Got Me There

As their website states, “Great Meadows Foundation is a grant giving foundation launched in 2016 by contemporary art collector and philanthropist Al Shands. Named for the home that Al and his late wife Mary created, the mission of Great Meadows Foundation is to critically strengthen and support visual art in Kentucky by empowering our community’s artists and other visual arts professionals to research, connect and participate more actively in the broader contemporary art world.”

Sabra and I both took this trip with the help of Great Meadows’ artist professional development grants, which seek to “develop artists’ awareness of and participation in the national and international art world in order to strengthen the level of discourse and practice among artists in the state.”

A Q&A with artist and Art Sanctuary Vice President Britany Baker: On the history of Art Sanctuary, how she creates her work and more


By Jo Anne Triplett

I love artists. They say things like, “The nice thing about predetermined intent is that you can tell how close you are to hitting the mark.” Britany Baker (britanybaker.com) is a creative person, someone who has followed the curvy road of life to end up where she started.

LEO: You work in unusual media. Please explain how you create your art.
Britany Baker: The oil paintings are unusual only in that I didn’t use white paint until recently. I work those with very thin layers of stain using watercolor brushes and let the white of the canvas do all the work lighting-wise. The charcoals, on the other hand, are unusual. Those are done with charcoal powder and water. I lay down a transparent resist with water, sprinkle the page with charcoal powder, and then hit it with water again. Wherever the water hits first, the charcoal floats off and the paper remains white; when the charcoal hits first, a mark is made. The second application of water is the one that really determines the texture. The height, angle, speed and amount of water decide the surface. So, if I pour it low I can determine direction; hit it hard from up high and I can make a splash effect, etc. And there’s a lot that I don’t really control. This all has to happen really quickly. I then go back in and draw with charcoal pencils and/or paint with slurry made from the powder and water. The initial pouring process can be repeated multiple times, but they are very fragile and it becomes trickier as time goes on not to destroy the work you’ve put into it.

How has your art changed over the years?
Well, I hope it’s gotten better. I went to college on full scholarship prepared to make art my life. I got out of college four years later with a BFA in drawing, prepared to leave art behind forever — not the best college experience. I was tired of grayscale — there was no color theory at my school — and realism and constantly feeling judged. I felt I had nothing left to say with art. I had a crisis of intent. But about a year later, there was a week where I counted half a dozen of the “doodles” I was doing with ballpoint pen on napkins hanging nearly everywhere I went. I realized I hadn’t stopped making art at all, I had just changed the format. I bought my first oil paints shortly after that and started trying to figure that out. I decided that my intent could be as simple as deciding to make the canvas better than when it was bare, and that I didn’t need to know where I was going as long as I kept moving forward. My intent became a way of making art and lay in the action of each mark I made, instead of being a thing that I was aiming to achieve. I did scenic painting for TV and theater. I did illustration and graphic design. I painted murals and commissions. But the self-directed art that I’ve been making since college has been essentially abstract — or maybe stream-of-consciousness, non-objective surrealism, what Roberto Matta referred to as “Inscapes.” The rest all felt like work. And most of the art I made, ballpoint-pen drawings and oil paintings mainly, had no erasers, no white paint, no going back. Every mark I made stood. Recently, however, things have changed. For whatever reason, I’ve gone back to my drawing roots and taken up charcoal again. And I decided it was time to learn how oils were traditionally intended to be used. I bought some white paint and a couple books, and I took a workshop and some classes. And it seemed like the best way to gauge my progress would be to work with recognizable subject matter again. The nice thing about predetermined intent is that you can tell how close you are to hitting the mark. And I’m enjoying it again. So here we are.

Art Sanctuary is a group you are involved with. What is it?
Art Sanctuary is a 501(c)3 nonprofit arts organization supporting local visual, literary and performing arts through low-cost studio space, events, promotion and education. We are located at 1433 S. Shelby St. in the Schnitzelburg neighborhood of Louisville. When my husband, Frankie Steele, said he found a building he wanted to convert into a maker space, I think I probably said something like, “You’re crazy —we don’t have any money.” Which was true. But also not the point. He devised a plan to clean up and convert the old manufacturing warehouse space into studios and event space and drew up plans in Sketchup. He put together a presentation and pitched it to the building owner, Dennis Becker. The first completed spaces in the building were my studio and a photo studio for him to shoot in. He worked for months on the project on his own before he started looking for a nonprofit to partner with. I suggested he talk to my friend, Lisa Frye. The two of them have a lot in common — hard working visionaries who hate to hear the word no, and love and support art and the underdogs. She founded Art Sanctuary years before, successfully holding pop-up exhibitions known as Soirees, but the organization had no brick and mortar, and its board was down to two people. Frankie and I joined the board in 2012, and the three of us, together with Scott Slusher, signed a lease as Art Sanctuary. We currently have a seven-member working board, around 30 working artists and 30 performers. I am the vice president, and I handle pretty much everything having to do with visual arts, along with board recruitment and budgets and marketing and things that happen in computers  — we have no staff. You get the picture. We have successfully rezoned the building and are working our way through permitting on the event space now. It has changed my life. I’m so grateful to Frankie for dreaming this thing up and seeing it through and to Lisa and Scott for taking a chance on this. It’s been a tremendous amount of work, but has given me a way to collaborate on what I care most about, and to be surrounded by artists. I feel like I’m on my home planet when I’m there.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
I was a state champion class II gymnast when I was 15. This was where I learned focus, balance and perseverance. It was meditative to me. I quit to get a job and be a teenager. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I still want to do a tumbling pass when faced with a long hallway.

What’s on your art bucket list?
As I mentioned in that whole thing about intent, having a bucket list isn’t really how I’m wired. Or at least it’s not how I’ve been living my life. Maybe that can be the first item on my bucket list: get a bucket list. Incidentally, my favorite definition of the word “intent”, and there are a lot of them, is the medical one: the process by which a wound heals itself.

An interview with the artist


Visiting Artist Open House And Local Podcast Invitation

Last week, the local real estate office of Lenihan Sotheby's International Realty held a Visiting Artist Open House, and I was the invited artist!  As part of their Open House, they also invited me to participate in a podcast episode</a> that was published just a few days before the opening reception.  Below is a short summary of my discussion with the host...


Britany Baker is one of the local artists exhibited here at the Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty office located at 3803 Brownsboro Road in St. Matthews. For her LSIR Open House event on Thursday, she is bringing 30-40 pieces of two-dimensional art. In the past, she has done art shows that were all black-and-white charcoals or other art shows that were all colorful, abstract oil paintings. This show is a mix of the different directions she has taken in the past. She likes charcoal, she says, because it is “more controlled,” but she likes splashing around with white oil paint for something a little more real. Watercolors are typically more of her comfort zone, but she is always exploring.

As a medium, “oils are really hard,” Baker explains. “You go to mix the white paint in, and everything just, it does these things that didn’t seem predictable to me, and I didn’t understand it.” For instance, when you blend Payne’s Grey and White, you might get a dull blue instead of a lighter shade of gray as you’d guess. The more she worked with oil, the more she discovered how to create the paintings she sees. In a class with Claudia Hammer, she learned the importance of starting with off-white canvas and that it was best to add whites last – as opposed to charcoal where whites come first.

Some artists seemingly create effortlessly – like second nature – but Baker doesn’t feel that way. “I feel like what I do is not quite what they do,” she laughs. Like drawing with a ballpoint pen, there isn’t always a “do over” when you’re working with something like oil, Baker adds. “Every mark you make lives its whole life there, so you have to get in this meditative state, you have to deal with every decision you made, because they’re all going to be there, and you have to risk just ruining it and chucking it.”

Charcoal requires a very different technique. Baker hits a piece of paper with water to preserve white space and then sprinkles charcoal powder down. Then she hits it again with water. “How you hit it, with how much water, the distance, the angle, the amount – it will all get you different effects.” What she likes about the medium is how organic everything is. “You call tell they happened, rather than I sat there and drew that splash,” she explains. Once the art dries, she takes a brush coated in “charcoal powder slurry” (charcoal mixed with water) and adds layers of detail. Sometimes she goes in with pencils.

Ultimately, Baker loves when people fall in-love with her pieces and claim it as their own. Even though she is parting with a piece of herself, it’s the ultimate compliment for someone to decorate their home or business with her work, essentially saying: “This is me. This says who I am.”

People who are interested in seeing how professional art comes together can schedule an appointment at Britany Baker’s studio space on the edge of Schnitzelburg on Shelby Street.


Artist Britany Baker showcases more than 30 pieces at Lenihan Sotheby’s


By Eli Keel | August 17, 2016 5:05 pm

“Right now I think I’m in flux,” said artist Britany Baker, who will showcase almost 30 works in her next exhibit, opening at the gallery in Lenihan Sotheby’s International Real Estate on Thursday. The show presents an array of her works and also features an interesting collaboration between Baker, a fine artist, the nonprofit Louisville Visual Art (LVA), and the for-profit company Lenihan Sotheby’s.

Baker, a painter and charcoal artist, tells Insider she’s been pushing herself.

“I’ve really tried to push boundaries in the last year and expand my knowledge base in terms of materials,” she says. “It was time to get out of my comfort zone.”

She was feeling introspective when she spoke with us earlier this week, just after she finished hanging the show.

“It’s weird, when I hung the show yesterday, to see the breadth of the work — it feels like it’s changing.” Despite the changes, Baker says she still recognizes herself in the work. “It all feels like it’s still me, it still looks like one person painted and drew all the pieces that are in it, but it feels less cohesive than other shows I’ve done.”

Baker thinks some of the lack of cohesion comes from the number of pieces. It’s a large show, in part because it must fill a large space, which brings us back to that collaboration.

When real estate teams with nonprofits and fine art

Lenihan Sotheby’s is a real estate company that moves some expensive properties in town. Despite a focus on real estate, the name has long been associated with art due to Sotheby’s world-famous auction house. Did somebody sell a van Gogh for a couple million bucks? It probably happened at Sotheby’s.

But at the local level, the real estate company wants to keep ties to the arts community, and they want to focus on local artists. John Wurth, vice president of marketing, spoke with Insider about keeping a rotation of high-quality art in the office’s gallery.

“The biggest thing for all our real estate agents and all of our clients: People like seeing the art change,” he says.

Above and beyond the pleasure the art brings people in the office, the gallery puts two ideal groups together: artists and people who need to fill some blank walls. Wurth points out that the company doesn’t take any cut from the sales. “We just want to give an outlet to local artists,” he says.

Of course, finding great artists is sometimes easier said than done.

“We kinda hit a wall with finding local artists who were quality fine artists, so I reached out to LVA and asked them to partner with us,” says Wurth.

It’s a new partnership. Baker is only the second artist LVA placed in the gallery.

LVA’s Keith Waits says the relationship benefits both parties. “They wanted a better resource for connecting with a wider range of artists, so they connected with us.”

Waits says he’s sitting down soon with Wurth to talk about future artists.

“Its a new relationship, and we’re still feeling each other out in terms of what he wants to see,” says Waits, “but also thinking what he’s trying to offer, which is, to some extent, art for their clients.”

Does this hold together?

The space at Lenihan Sotheby’s is large and diverse, but so is artist Britany Baker’s skill set. The upcoming show focuses on her oil paintings and charcoals.

If you are imagining straight-up charcoal sketches or drawings, think again. Baker says her charcoal work is much closer to painting with watercolor.

“I call them charcoal paintings. They’re done with brushes and water rather than sticks,” she says.

Baker started working with the process during college at Xavier University, when she discovered the process in an old book, and has since tweaked and worked the specifics.

“They’re done with charcoal powder and water. I do a process of pouring that is really messy, and it has to happen outside. You essentially douse the paper,” says Baker. “Then afterward, I use the powder and water and make a slurry, and paint with watercolor brushes.”

She used the process for several of the pieces in this show, but it’s most notable on two large pieces, both 2 feet tall and 8-9 feet long.

Waits says Baker’s work is a refreshing mix of old and new. “(She) is someone who is very contemporary,” he says. “I mean, she’s got a fresh sensibility that’s all her own, but she’s rooted in dimensional subjects, flowers, birds — she’s dealing with traditional subjects using such a modern sensibility, and that often pushes into an abstract territory.”

Baker, for her part, wonders what guests will take away from the show as a whole. “I’m really curious to hear what people will say,” she says. “(Something) like, ‘Wow, you’re fragmented,’ or ‘Oh, this does actually hold together.’ I’m really not sure what to expect in terms of feedback.”

The exhibit opens with a reception on Thursday, Aug. 18, at Lenihan Sotheby’s International Real Estate, 3803 Brownsboro Road, from 5-7:30 p.m. The reception is free. The show continues through October.