Artist Interview: Debra Baxter | Tooth & Nail

Santa Fe sculptor Debra Baxter presents a new series of sculptural artworks in her solo exhibition, Tooth & Nail. The show opened on April 27, 2018. Baxter will appear at an artist talk on Saturday, May 19, 2-3 pm, and a closing reception on Saturday, June 15, 5-7 pm. On a studio visit this winter, she talked about her work as a sculptor and jeweler, her influences, and the new body of work. 

You moved to Santa Fe from Seattle almost three years ago. How has your practice changed since you got here?

I feel really happy here, and solid. That solidity and happiness and the sunshine all make a massive difference in my joy. I feel like there might be more levity and light in me that might come out in the work.

Debra Baxter Sculpture- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Debra Baxter, Face Down About to Get Up and Fight, cast glass, citrine 4.5 x 5 x 3 in.

That makes sense. It seems like part of your practice is about bringing your emotional world into the third dimension.

A good example of that is this idea of attachment. My husband is a woodworker. In order to make the things connect correctly, they have to both be flat. There’s a level of detail that’s insane that he’s really good at and  can advise me about.

In an emotional sense, I feel like I’m looking for a secure attachment and I almost get too attached to people and things. The thing about attachment is that you try to control it. That’s when it gets dangerous, when you’re trying to control someone else or the relationship. I made a sculpture once that was called It’ll Stop Screaming if You Let Go of It. 

Sculpting seems like a good way to work through those feelings. You’re constantly picking up new materials and swapping and combining and dropping them. 

Yeah, I’m always trying to figure out new, different materials. I’m trying to manipulate them, to figure out the edges of what I can control and what I can’t. It’s about realizing that sometimes you can only control so much, and after that you have to let it be what it is.

My art would get very stagnant if I stopped playing around and pushing. The thing about play that’s important is that failure is fine. It’s the risk-taking that’s important. This thing can fail and it could be a nightmare—maybe I wasted time and money—but who cares? Sometimes the failure is like, “Oh, now it looks better because I dropped it.”

Debra Baxter Sculpture- Crystal Brass Knuckles- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Debra Baxter, Aqua Aura Knuckles, bronze, crystal quartz, 4 x 4.5 x 2 in.

Does your work as a jeweler help you take bigger risks as a sculptor?

The processes definitely influence each other. I use sculpture processes on my jewelry—like using an angle grinder to grind things, which no one in their right mind would do. On the flip side, If I took some of my sculptural stuff to a jewelry caster, they would probably say, “That’s way too big! That’s not going to happen!” The possibilities open up a lot more, the more processes you learn.

The reason I got interested in jewelry, as much as I wanted to make jewelry, had to do with the fact that certain objects are more powerful on the body. Your body brings a certain power to it. With the crystal brass knuckles series, it’s so much more powerful on the hand.

In addition to jewelry and adornment, you’ve recently taken a big interest in drapery.

I’m really interested in the history of drapery in art. It’s such a weird ancient practice, to draw drapery. Sculptors have been carving drapery out of stone forever. It made me wonder how else I could translate fiber into other materials, like the bronze throwing stars that are cast from lace. 

Debra Baxter Sculpture- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Debra Baxter, Lace Throwing Star, bronze, 5 x 5 in.

How does all of this play into your solo exhibition, Tooth & Nail

I’m doing a lot of inversion in the show. It’s about the relationship and the tension between two objects. Sometimes they’re almost touching, but not. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about how can art be transformational. That’s a hard thing to control. Maybe my art can give other people power to make their art. I love that idea, that your power is giving other people power. Again, it’s about letting go.

Debra Baxter Sculpture- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Debra Baxter, Together, cast glass, fluorite, 4.5 x 7 x 2 in.

Click here to browse all of the artwork in Tooth & Nail. 

 

TONIGHT: Debra Baxter & Matthew Szösz.

Debra Baxter Sculpture- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Debra Baxter, We Are the Champions, bronze, 11 x 11 x 2.5 in.

Tonight (Friday, 4/27) from 5-7 pm, form & concept hosts an opening reception for two sculpture shows: Tooth & Nail by Debra Baxter, and Minimal Tension by Matthew Szösz. Both solo exhibitions have received some great coverage in local press over the past few months. Baxter was the cover artist for The Magazine‘s February issue, and the subject of a feature article by Jenn Shapland. Here’s an excerpt:

Debra Baxter has just chucked something across her studio. A five-pointed throwing star sticks firmly into the opposite wall. She’s about to throw another, but first she shows it to me. It’s elegant lace made of metal. The tips have been sharpened. Baxter’s work occupies several unlikely but generative intersections: between the fierce and the sentimental, between museum pieces and ready-to-wear jewelry. Since her early pieces in alabaster, Baxter has tried to find a way to use sculpture to harness a woman’s voice, her source both of power and of vulnerability.

Tooth & Nail also scored a shout-out in this week’s Santa Fe Reporter. Here’s a tidbit from Alex De Vore’s calendar pick:

Sculptor Debra Baxter’s propensity for crafting armor and weaponry-adjacent pieces from metal, stone and wood belies the subtly elegant touches rampant throughout her work. […] Representational this is not; intriguing and borderline dangerous it is. Good luck not getting sucked in.

Matthew Szösz Glass Sculpture- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Matthew Szösz, untitled (inflatable) no. 75g, glass, 19 x 9 x 19 in.

Matthew Szösz is in town this weekend for the opening, and will also conduct an artist talk on Saturday, April 28 from 2-3 pm. His exhibition of glass sculptures, Minimal Tension, got a spotlight in this week’s Pasatiempo. Michael Abatemarco writes:

Matthew Szösz’s sculptures are dynamic works in glass made using a variety of tools and techniques. Minimal Tension, an exhibition that draws from two ongoing series, Inflatables and Ropework, opens Friday, April 27.

The show was also featured in Santa Fe Arts Journal‘s email newsletter, in a write-up by Emily Van Cleve:

For Szösz, setting up just one glass art experiment is an involved process, with preparation taking anywhere from a half a day to four weeks. Sometimes the sculpture works out fine, but it also can shatter into a million pieces.

Preview both shows on our exhibition page, and make sure to stop by for the opening reception tonight and Matthew’s artist talk tomorrow!

Preview: Debra Baxter | Tooth & Nail

“This thing could fail, and it could be a nightmare,” says Debra Baxter. “But who cares?” The Santa Fe sculptor makes artworks that combine divergent materials—metal, glass and stone, for example—so there’s always a risk that they’ll split apart during the creative process. Informed by her passion for armor and weaponry, the artist charges ahead fearlessly to create elegant and sometimes dangerous objects.

Baxter’s new solo exhibition, Tooth & Nail, includes flowing bronze breastplates that hold glittering minerals, and metal throwing stars that are cast from lace. There’s also a wicked bronze-and-quartz sculpture from her Smithsonian-collected brass knuckles series. “I’ll often emerge from these crazy material experiments bruised—but I’m never broken,” says Baxter. Tooth & Nail opens on Friday, April 27 from 5 to 7 pm, and runs through June 16, 2018. Baxter conducts an artist talk on Saturday, May 19 from 2 to 3 pm, and hosts a closing reception on Friday, June 15 from 5 to 7 pm.

Debra Baxter Sculpture- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Debra Baxter, Unapologetic Glory, bronze, alabaster, 20 x 8 x 6 in.

Baxter has exhibited her sculptures and jewelry at form & concept since the gallery’s founding in May 2016. She helped lay the foundations of the gallery’s mission: to challenge preconceived notions about art, craft and design and blur their borders. “Debra is a master of what I call ‘material inversion,’” says Frank Rose, Gallery Director at form & concept. “She might pair soft materials with hard ones, or take it one step further and make a dense medium look like it’s light and flowing. She creates invigorating visual and tactile experiences, but there’s also a boundary-shattering conceptual element to the work.”

Debra Baxter Sculpture- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Debra Baxter, Wind Knocked In, amethyst, bronze, mopany, 9.5 x 16 x 5 in.

The artist moved from Seattle to Santa Fe in August 2015, a radical leap away from the city where she established her career. Originally from Nebraska, she earned her MFA at Bard College and moved to Washington State in the late 1990’s. Baxter drew inspiration from Seattle’s legendary punk rock scene to create a series of wearable sculptures. Her crystal brass knuckles, made from gemstones and bronze, caught the eye of a curator at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. One of the artworks landed in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian in 2016. Baxter’s passion for bodily adornment also lead her to create a long-running jewelry collection called DB/CB, consisting of bronze pendants that cradle gems and minerals.

“The reason I got interested in jewelry had to do with the way that certain objects are more powerful on the body,” says Baxter. “Your body brings a certain energy to the object.” Not all of the works in Tooth & Nail reference personal ornamentation, but every piece carries a certain talismanic force. “Art can be transformational. It’s a hard thing to control, but no matter what medium I’m working with, I want to give people that experience,” Baxter says. Her process always begins with freewheeling experimentation.

Debra Baxter Sculpture- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Debra Baxter, Face Down About to Get Up and Fight, cast glass, citrine, 4.5 x 5 x 3 in.

The artist frequently picks up materials she’s never used before, searching for novel ways to engage the histories of sculpture, jewelry, weaponry or drapery. For Tooth & Nail, the events of the #MeToo movement have fed into her continued interest in the strength, vulnerability and the raw power of the female voice. The courage of these women has activated work with a blend of toughness and vulnerability. “These contrasting materials carry a similar spirit,” she explains. “My sculptures sometimes look delicate, but when they’re finished, they are structurally resilient.”

Tooth & Nail features artworks made from glass, bronze, minerals, wood, bone and alabaster—often in surprising combinations. “It usually starts with a seemingly impossible question: ‘I have this piece of lace, how do I make it metal?’” Baxter says. “Then it’s about play. My art would get very stagnant if I stopped playing around and pushing. It’s the risk-taking that’s important.” It’s inevitable that some of her experiments will collapse, but sometimes she finds unexpected success while wrestling with entropy. “Sometimes the failure is like, ‘Oh, now it looks better because I dropped it,’” Baxter says.\

Preview the full exhibition.
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Debra Baxter Sculpture- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Debra Baxter, A Little Bit Like Fun, glass, picasso stone, 6 x 5.5 x 6.5 in.

This Sunday: Round Table with Dr. Leon Botstein!

Dr. Leon Botstein- President of Bard College- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

Bard College in Upstate New York is known as an enclave for edgy and offbeat thought leaders—as is Santa Fe, New Mexico. Creative luminaries from both communities gather for a one-of-a-kind forum in the City Different this spring, thanks to Bard alumnus and Santa Fe gallery owner Sandy Zane. She hosts a weekend retreat for Bardians at form & concept, culminating in a round table discussion with Bard College President Leon Botstein, PhD, and leaders of New Mexico’s creative community. Participants will discuss innovative education models and their potential to change the world.

The conversation is moderated by Hakim Bellamy, Deputy Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of Albuquerque. It features Mary Kershaw of New Mexico Museum of Art, John Flax of Theater Grottesco, and Cindy Montoya of New Mexico School for the Arts. Round Table with Dr. Leon Botstein takes place on Sunday, April 22 from 2 to 3 pm. The event is free and open to the public, and tea and other light refreshments will be served.

“The round table discussion will pose a powerful question: how can we rethink educational models to address complex contemporary challenges?” says Zane. “The participants have tackled this query time and again throughout their remarkable careers—and their diverse answers are sure to amaze you.” Bellamy, who is the Deputy Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of Albuquerque and has a background in arts education, will guide the discussion. The other participants occupy distinct niches in the universe of arts education.

Botstein will speak to his experience as a world-class conductor and liberal arts educator, while Montoya will discuss the nationally ranked high school program at New Mexico School for the Arts. Kershaw has a strong background in museum education, and Flax runs experimental, performance-based educational programming through Theater Grottesco. “I can’t wait to bring all of these colorful, passionate leaders to the same table,” says Zane. “There’s no telling what will happen.”  

Learn more about this event.
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TONIGHT: Mirror Box Closing Performance

“Fall in love! / And make a promise / You’ll never be able to keep.”

Local writer and performer Emmaly Wiederholt presents the original performance piece “Don’t You Want to Dance?” among the artworks of Strangers Collective’s Mirror Box exhibition. The performance takes place on the last day of the show—a final contribution that completes the show and offers a fresh way of experiencing the rest of the work.

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TASCHEN at form & concept

TASCHEN book murals of tibet at form & concept
Murals of Tibet

Lovers of beautiful books, rejoice! form & concept is now an official seller of TASCHEN Books, the revolutionary German imprint that deserves its own art museum. TASCHEN has collaborated with the likes of David HockneyChristo & Jeanne-Claude and Beatriz Milhazes to produce limited edition books that are true works of art. We’re particularly excited about their new title Murals of Tibet, an epic chronicle of some of the greatest treasures of Buddhist culture and Tibetan heritage.

For more than a decade, photographer Thomas Laird traveled the length, breadth, and far-flung corners of Tibet’s plateau to capture the land’s spectacular Buddhist murals. Deploying new multi-image digital photography, Laird compiled the world’s first archive of these artworks, some walls as wide as 10 meters, in life-size resolution. In recognition of this World Heritage landmark and preservation of Tibetan culture, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has signed all copies of this Collector’s Edition. As pictured, Murals of Tibetcomes with a stand designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect and humanitarian pioneer Shigeru Ban.

Click the images below to view more books from TASCHEN, now available from form & concept. Browse all of our TASCHEN titles and other books in our online shop.

 

andy warhol book at form and concept
Andy Warhol, 7 Illustrated Books

 

Beatriz Milhazes book at form and concpet
Beatriz Mihazes
Christo Book Floating Piers at form and concept
Christo, Floating Piers
The Gates by Christo at form and concept
Christo, The Gates
TASCHEN book Christopher Wool at form & concept
Christopher Wool
David Hockney TASCHEN Book at form & concept
David Hockney, A Bigger Book 

 

 

Derek Chan | Strangers Collective: Mirror Box

“The steps that lead up to a process like this are really unseen.”

Derek Chan explores the interrelationships of symbols that are tied to cultural mythology, spiritual beliefs, and the power of supernatural phenomena.

Kyle Farrell, Alex Gill and Jordan Eddy, co-directors of Strangers Collective and the No Land art space, curate this exhibition of emerging artists and writers at form & concept. Mirror Box represents a network of early career creatives, starting in Santa Fe and spiraling across the nation. Its curatorial through line presents a radical method for reflecting on place and identity through art objects. Mirror Box runs through April 14, 2018, with a zine reading on April 7 and a closing performance on April 14. Click the links below to learn about the show’s event series.

Learn more about the exhibition.
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Raising Arizona.

Wesley Anderegg- Ceramic Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Wesley Anderegg, 2 Headed Man (Rob-Bob), ceramic 11.25 x 11.25 x 1.5 in.

Wesley Anderegg: ARIZONA opens tonight (Friday, 3/30) from 5 to 7 pm at form & concept, followed by an artist talk on Saturday (3/31) from 2 to 3 pm. For a first look at the show, make sure to pick up a copy of this week’s Pasatiempo. Michael Abatemarco interviewed Wes for a lively piece called Raising Arizona, excerpted here:

For ceramic artist Wesley Anderegg, Arizona is  a state of mind, and he might picture you there  with a can of Coors sooner than with luna moths. But who knows? You shouldn’t put anything past him. After all, Anderegg would gladly trade in stereotypical cowboys roping steers for quirky characters on hobby horses, or for dreamers floating in the sky, high above the saguaro. About two dozen ceramic tiles depicting life in Arizona, as filtered through the wry and surreal mind of the artist, are on exhibit at Form & Concept, each one measuring about 12 by 12 inches and about an inch and a half thick.

Emily Van Cleve of Santa Fe Arts Journal penned a preview of the show, with some fantastic quotes from Wes. Here’s a tidbit:

It’s fair to say that California-based ceramic artist Wesley Anderegg has somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the state of Arizona.

He was born in Phoenix, graduated from Arizona State University and lived in the area for more than 30 years. His show “Arizona” at form & concept, which opens on March 30, pokes fun at life in his birthplace.

“I love the desert,” he explains. “From January through March, there’s no better place to be. When I grew up there in the 1950s, we lived at the edge of town. The desert was a great place to raise hell.”

Learn more about the show at the links below, and make sure to stop by tonight & tomorrow to meet the artist!

Visit the ARIZONA exhibition page.
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Wesley Anderegg- Ceramic Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Wesley Anderegg, Couple Riding Through Desert, ceramic, 14.25 x 20 x 1.5 in.
Wesley Anderegg- Ceramic Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Wesley Anderegg, Quail, ceramic, 11.25 x 11.25 x 1.5 in.
Wesley Anderegg- Ceramic Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Wesley Anderegg, Pretty Arizona Girls Drink Coors, ceramic, 11.25 x 11.25 x 1.5 in.

Click here to preview more artwork from Wesley Anderegg: ARIZONA.

Preview: Wesley Anderegg | Arizona

“Everybody that lives in New Mexico goes to Arizona every once in a while,” says Wesley Anderegg. “That’s the only reason Arizona exists, is to drive through to go to California.” It’s a particularly sacrilegious statement for a born-and-raised Arizonan, but Anderegg hasn’t lived there for decades. He’s also never directly revisited his wild childhood through his figurative ceramics—until now. “As you get older, you kind of get reminiscing,” says the California-based artist. “It’s like, oh man, I’m on the downslope these days. Time to look back.” In a new series of diminutive ceramic tiles, Anderegg flattens his tragicomic sculptural figures with a playful nod to Pop Art paintings and comic book panels. The painted compositions evoke Anderegg’s experience growing up in the sun-drenched and lawless Sonoran Desert. Wesley Anderegg: ARIZONA debuts at form & concept on Friday, March 30 from 5 to 7 pm, with an artist talk on Saturday, March 31 from 2 to 3 pm.

As Anderegg tells it, his mosaical visual memoir started as a happy accident. “I had a bunch of these ceramic squares made, and they were just sitting there,” he says. Anderegg is known for his sculptural depictions of somewhat impish figures who are often in comical conflict or cartoonish peril. He also has an ongoing series of figurative paintings on circular platters, but the fresh stack of ceramic tiles inspired him to play around with more complex 2D compositions. “I got this idea to make these markers of my time in Arizona, the dusty palette and everything,” he says. “It’s just memories of my childhood, all the crazy crap we used to do.”

The works document all sorts delightful mischief: there’s an inner tube voyage down a lazy river, and a romantic rendezvous in the bed of a pickup truck. Rakish cowboys sip cold cans of Coors, bug-eyed jackrabbits scurry across sizzling highways, and strangely human cacti flash spiny, gaping smiles. “You can see this evolution of techniques through the series,” Anderegg says. “The first desert scenes were glazed, while the last ones are dry with a matte surface.” It’s as though the artist had to ease into this gritty universe of memories, slowly bringing the Arizona of his youth into focus. “One thing that’s the same in all of them is the sky, which is glazed with these really cool blues,” he says. “I had to get that desert sky just right.”

Anderegg’s tiles measure just under 12 x 12 inches each, and they’ll span form & concept’s stairwell and catwalk spaces for the solo exhibition. Though the series represents a new direction for the artist, form & concept director Frank Rose sees a clear link between old and new. “Every figure that Wes makes represents a little part of him and his story,” Rose says. “Arizona is a more direct expression of that—even the desert creatures in the paintings have these bold personalities that evoke personal allegories.” Anderegg recognizes the humor of mounting a show called ARIZONA one state to the east, but it’s a simple matter of personal preference. “I thought about actually having it in Arizona, but I like you guys better,” he says with a grin.

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Julie Slattery | Strangers Collective | Mirror Box


Sculptor Julie Slattery shapes talismanic objects—such as the enormous bird skulls that appear in our Mirror Box exhibition—that become emotional reliquaries for specific events in her life.

Kyle Farrell, Alex Gill and Jordan Eddy, co-directors of Strangers Collective and the No Land art space, curate this exhibition of emerging artists and writers at form & concept. The show represents a network of early career creatives, starting in Santa Fe and spiraling across the nation. Its curatorial throughline presents a radical method for reflecting on place and identity through art objects. Mirror Box opened at form & concept on Friday, February 23 and runs through April 14, 2018. Click the links below to learn about the Mirror Box event series.

Learn more about the exhibition.
RSVP for Closing Reception & Performance.