How do we remember people and places once they have been lost? You can go for a walk through a neighborhood with someone who has long lived there, and they can tell you, oh, this used to be here, that used to be there. You can look through photo albums with family, and they can tell you stories about the dearly departed people in the pictures. Or you can do what Jennifer Baker has done, which is to draw, paint and print your most important surroundings—your neighborhood, your parents—during times of transition. Northern Liberties has undergone intense transformation during the thirty years Baker has kept a studio in the neighborhood, in an 1892 former textile factory, changes that having happened are not always visible at street level. But their traces are etched permanently in works like “Crane,” a miasmic oil on mylar that depicts the convergence of construction and destruction, and “Third Street,” an 18-foot-long panorama that does much the same, though under sunset colors and with endless narrative detail. Equally epic, though far more personal, is “Elegy” and the many smaller works related to it, some of which act as studies for the people and scenes depicted therein. Two of these people are Baker’s parents, with whom she quarantined during the pandemic, and who both ultimately died from covid. Her tribute to them glows orange and is filled with more tenderness, detail and balance than normally fit onto a canvas, no matter how large.
—Lori Waxman 10/13/2023 2:01 PM