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.