Dawn Waters Baker | Painter
Featured Artist | September 2016
Dawn feels like her first language was beauty. That was how her heart was stirred to art. Born and raised a missionary kid in the Philippines, she learned to look for it in the cracks and crevices of lives much harder than her own. Even as a young child the landscape was a way to explore and find adventure. She lived in a provincial area in the shadow of Mt. Isarog, an active volcano, which gave the landscape a rich earth and lush color. After she turned 10 they moved to the big city of Manila where poverty became the normal view into everyday life. These two images still run through her heart as she wrestles with the tension between such beauty and the human misery of those who are overlooked. At the age of 19 she moved to the US to go to college where she learned how to find her own way to express her heart through painting. It was through a long road of finding her particular way that she finally came back to the landscape and what she believes is her “window” into the spiritual.
Her art is collected by many businesses as well as private owners, some of which are: Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas Eye Care Associates, and Dallas Baptist University. She finished five original drawings for the book, “Why, O God?” published by Crossway books and is the cover artist for the forthcoming book, “When Suffering is Redemptive” published by Weaver Book Company. She is a Signature member of Artists of Texas. Dawn is affiliated with Mary Tomas Gallery in Dallas Design District, Kate Shin Gallery in New York, NY, Joseph Gierek Fine Art in Tulsa, OK, and currently with White Stone Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. She was also selected as the 2015 Artist in Residence for Big Bend National Park for the entire month of November. She will have a forthcoming solo exhibit in September 2016 based on her time and inspiration at the Park. Her work has been in national shows including The National Weather Biennale, Jubilee Museum of Sacred Art Biennale, CIVA Contemporary Images of Mary and Ex Nihilo at Roberts Wesleyan College.
AHD: Favorite Local Restaurant?
DWB: Ali Baba’s Mediterranean on Central Expressway in Richardson
AHD: Favorite Local Past Time?
DWB: I’m pretty boring as I’m a Mom of three busy girls, but I do love to watch movies at Angelika in Plano, peruse the books at Half Price bookstore and frequent my local Asels in Richardson.
AHD: How did you develop a passion for painting?
DWB: My father would paint as a way to relax. He worked as a missionary/pastor, and he found that painting nature was a joy. I can still remember sitting on the floor watching him paint and the smell of the oils. I must have been about 6 or 7 years old when he patted the seat next to him and said, “come up here and do one too!” He was my first art teacher and inspiration. When I was in Middle School I enrolled in some painting classes with Rudy Herrera who was an avid fan of John Singer Sargent. I majored in Fine Art in College with an emphasis in Drawing and Painting. I would say that painting became THE way to explore when I finally got off on my own and started watching the Texas sky.
AHD: Last fall you had the opportunity to work and paint at Big Bend National Park as their Artist in Residence. Can you tell us about your experience? Where did you draw most of your inspiration from during your time there?
DWB: In 2015 I applied for the Big Bend National Park Artist Residency through the National Park Arts Foundation. I was awarded shortly after and believe it was just one of those open door moments that God gifted through grace and kindness. Through their grants I was fully equipped and able to buy the gas, food and water needed for a month long residency. I stayed with the Park Rangers at Panther Junction in a one-bedroom apartment. Throughout the month of November, I hiked through the wilderness that is Big Bend. It is 800,000 acres so I’m sure I missed some things, but I believe I got to see a great deal. During my stay I encountered coyotes, a mountain lion (I was shaking like a leaf!) and several types of beautiful birds. It was just incredible to see the mountain maples turn into beautiful gem colors as I hiked the Chisos Mountains. My days consisted of waking up early for a sunrise somewhere in the park to hiking and painting during the day and then going somewhere for the sunset. The two times of day that the Park was breathtaking was when the light bent. I taught a workshop while I was there, “Painting the Emotional Landscape”, and gave a final presentation in the Big Bend Amphitheater during Thanksgiving Week. My sweet family was able to come to the park about halfway through and stay with me, so I hiked, painted and worked alongside my family. My three daughters and I made a bird wall where we drew several birds we saw and liked at the park.
My inspiration was the ever changing landscape and shifting shadows. I found the landscape, through the cycles of wind, rain, mist, sun to be a beautiful metaphor of our emotions. I can say that I truly felt the land and was grateful for the time to sit with it.
AHD: It is clear from your work that you draw a lot of your inspiration from nature. When talking about your recent piece “Tender” you reflected on the tenderness shown after the Dallas police shooting. Would you say your inspiration is drawn mostly from natural beauty, personal reflection, or is it a combination of both?
DWB: C.S. Lewis wrote, “Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol that Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects” (Weight of Glory). I have this hanging on my wall in the studio as it speaks to how I see Nature. It is the heavy metaphor for life. The Psalms continually paint pictures for us to explore as we see God and humanity through these descriptions. What I believe I’m trying to say is that Nature is worth reflecting on as more than just pleasing to the eye. Beauty is deep and vast. I believe at its best that beauty creates a longing in people’s hearts. So when I reflect on nature and see it through its changing cycles, its hardships and abundance I see my own story and all of human history written there as well. When I painted “Tender” I did not finish until the week of the Dallas shootings. It was a difficult week to try to paint something beautiful, but the portion I was wrestling with was this softness of light that made the mountains look as if they were tenderly holding the light. I thought about the lifespan of those mountain limestone rocks. I thought about how God is there, always with us. So many discussions needed to happen out of what took place in our city that week, but sometimes sitting in silence is the greatest kindness we could give at that moment.
AHD: You are having an art show on September 10 at Mary Tomas Gallery featuring many of the pieces from your time at Big Bend National Park. Where can we direct our community to go and learn more information?
DWB: Yes, this year marks the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks, so I feel that it is a storybook ending to the residency. The show is called, “Reverence: The Big Bend Landscape,” and runs from September 10th until October 22nd. The opening reception will be 5:30pm - 8:30pm. There will also be an Artist Talk on September 24th in conjunction with the DADA Fall Art Walk. Over 20 works that were done in studio and plein air (outdoors) will be available for viewing. I also finished the show book, “Reverence” with contributions from the National Parks Art Foundation, Big Bend National Park, Mary Tomas and Susan Quarterman of White Stone Gallery in Philadelphia. You can go here to order: http://www.blurb.com/b/7289824-reverence.
For more information on the show, please visit: marytomasgallery.com.
AHD: You were recently asked by the Nave Museum in Victoria, Texas for a Two Woman Show in 2018. Can you tell us more about that?
DWB: The Nave Museum asked if they could host a Two Woman Show featuring Mary Tomas and myself. After we looked over the place we both agreed that we would love to do it. Our exhibit is slated for August – September of 2018. I am so pleased and honored to be up with Mary. Her work is just exquisite.
AHD: Art House Dallas believes that art can heal, and has launched a new program “Deploy” to encourage artists to provide the healing power of art to their communities. You have seen the healing power of art first hand by teaching art to juvenile offenders through Alert. How have you seen lives positively impacted by investing your time and talents with these kids?
DWB: ALERT Ministries was started by Christina MacKenzie for incarcerated, sex-trafficked youth and is currently doing work in the Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center. I have been working with the RDT (residential drug treatment and sexually trafficked) girls for the past three years in a life-skills program and have loved every minute of getting to know them and their stories. In September, I am stepping into the new role of Art Teacher for the kids.
I am excited to start teaching them how to express their emotions on canvas (a healthy way to share anger, fear). I believe that as we continue to love, mentor, and invest in these kids, we will see them begin to have hope. Just this week a young lady from ALERT wrote me a letter that said, “I look up to you … as soon as I found out you were an artist. I just love that people are good with artwork because I hope to one day be that good. I believe in God, and I believe He has a loving heart, but I just don’t understand how He works sometimes…” ALERT has set up a place for us to sit with these kids during some of the most pivotal times in their lives and say, God sees you, He loves you, let’s make something together.