Bobby Baker has always explored the intricacies and complexities of our daily lives, but when she made public 158 of her 711 daily watercolours in a breathtaking exhibition at the Wellcome Collecition, 'Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me' (1997-2008) she spoke more personally and publicly than ever before. The book of the exhibition won the Mind Book of the Year, 2011, chosen from more than 100 entries as the year's greatest literary contribution to increasing understanding of mental health issues. Sarah Pickthall explores her unique artistic approach.
11 January 2012
Few have the skill to interweave their life and art with such wit, wisdom and perception as Bobby Baker.
"Bobby Baker’s audience has always known that she has had excruciating troubles: these have provided her with material since Drawing on a Mother’s Experience (1988), in which she brilliantly explored the guilt, fears, powers and passionate emotions of pregnancy giving birth and post partum states. In other classic works, such as the performance pieces Take a Peek! And Box Story, and the film Spitting Mad, she likewise milled the raw stuff….”
Marina Warner - Chronicle of a Life Repaired, an introduction to the book Diary Drawings, Mental illness and me
Over the last thirty five years, she has developed an extraordinary body of predominantly performance work articulating women’s experiences, which are so often silenced and ignored.
“In a powerful feminist tradition of speaking herself – speaking her own truth, she has ranged from hilarity to the deepest pathos. Her vision sometimes excruciating, has produced a singular and profoundly important body of art work about the struggle and joys of living.”
In the1970s and 80s, her exploration of daily life and ‘home truths’ tapped into where women still felt unable to place emphasis or feel pride in their day-to-day lives.
“By choosing to investigate these often solitary pursuits within the parameters of a performance, her scrutiny celebrates and valorizes the skills involved. Historically, these practices (or wisdoms) like the saws of so-called ‘old wives’ talks have been disregarded considered inadequate for official discourses.”
In conversation with David Tushingham, Bobby Baker described the feelings that fuelled her performance in Drawing on a Mother’s Experience (1988).
“I still find that performing it, I feel just as angry, just as desperate to explain the process because the things that happened to me and the significance and importance of what happens in daily life isn’t looked at and acknowledged.”