Briefly describe the work you do.
I have always been interested in femininity and identity. Those themes have now started to branch out into female lineage and the family archive through the interconnection of three generations of women in my immediate family. My work is very much autobiographical and more often than not uses self-portraiture. The female as subject intrigues me.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up in a small rural community in Southeast Kansas. I believe that my environment and upbringing has very much influenced my artwork conceptually, as I examine my psychological state, value of self, and family connections centered around our family home. I learned to make photographs as a young girl in our community’s 4-H club from an amazing woman, Becky Knoll. She instilled in me, as a young child, a love for photography and its power as a medium to express myself. I have been making photographs ever since—even as a teenager I often carried around disposable cameras to document my peers and surroundings.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
There is always an ebb and flow for me in regards to my studio time. I go through spurts of art making that may require more or less time spent editing and / or printing. I also make artist books, so when I am working on an edition of books I spend a great deal of time in the studio. The nature of my work often requires me to work in front of the computer editing, printing, promoting, and entering exhibitions. My intention is to always create my images in camera to the best of my ability so that I spend little time in the editing process. For me, the making of the photograph in the camera is the most important time in my art making.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
As an academic, I find myself mentoring undergraduate students far more than I expected. I have a passion for teaching, so I give a great deal of my time to helping others learn and better their craft as an artist.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
Because I am currently a graduate student, I have a set schedule for art making based around my course schedule. I find that I am able to be most productive in the afternoon, especially on the weekends. It will be interesting to see how this changes after I graduate in May 2016.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My undergraduate career was primarily analog and alternative process photography. While I still use alternative processes in my artwork, I predominantly work with making photographs in a digital camera. I think that I have maintained a cohesive aesthetic throughout my oeuvre as I have been focused on the female form and use of a simple color palette. As I approach my thesis work, however, I am working in vivid color and photographing the women within my family and not just myself, in an exploration of the family archive.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My family has had a great impact on the work I am currently pursuing, and in the past, I think that where I came from has always influenced my work. I am interested in the bond between the women in my immediate family. Artists: Daniel W. Coburn, Jana C. Perez, Cynthia Henebry, Nicolas Nixon, Cindy Sherman, and Francesca Woodman have also influenced me throughout my career. Fantastic mentors have also inspired me: Susan kae Grant, Stephanie Lanter, Marguerite Perret, Glenda Taylor, and Marydorsey Wanless.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I have always enjoyed writing and editing other people’s writing. If I were to pursue anything other than art, it would be editing.
Deedra Baker is a photographer and book artist currently based in Denton, TX. Her work and research focuses on themes of family, femininity, identity, and sexuality. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2011, from Washburn University in Topeka, KS, where she was the recipient of numerous honors, such as the Charles and Margaret Pollak Award and Sibberson Award. She is currently working toward a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts with a Photography Concentration and Intermedia Secondary Concentration at Texas Woman’s University. Selections from her body of work have been featured nationally in exhibitions and publications including, Chowan University National Juried Exhibition, Light Leaked, PhotoSpiva National Photographic Competition and Exhibition, and Voyeur: Repositioning the Gaze.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.