Get to Know: SPAC Installation Artist Barbara Baer
Published December 5, 2018
Barbara Baer is a current exhibitor at the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center (SPAC). Her installation is on display in the lobby of the SPAC.
Barbara Baer is a Denver-based sculptor who specializes in big — and we mean big — public art installations in Colorado and across the U.S.
Barbara works with metals like aluminum and steel, as well as plastics. Because most of her work is commissioned, she develops art for a specific setting and often creates only a portion of the piece in her studio before finishing the project in its intended setting. Barbara loves incorporating other sources of inspiration along with her own. She also appreciates site-specific work because the work reveals new facets when it comes together on-site.
Working in a public art realm is a team effort. Barbara consults with many different people to make it happen, including structural engineers, steel and plastic fabricators, even automotive painting specialists. According to Barbara, working with a cast of characters to make an installation happen is a lot of fun.
Much of Barbara’s work is developed in collaboration with a committee, as was the case with this installation at the SPAC. The installation comprised components Barbara had in the studio, but they had never been hung together or in a space where they could turn freely. Barbara thoroughly enjoyed the process and final product, which revealed things she had not anticipated.
What can you tell us about your SPAC installation?
The installation features one large piece with separate components that all hang from the ceiling. My specialty is aerial and suspended pieces, and in this case, you have a nice view from the balcony upstairs. The SPAC entrance showcases a lot of natural wood and dark tones, and the bright, strong colors of the installation really pop out against that setting.
The spines of the piece are steel, but the piece is primarily made out of plastic. This gives the installation a glossy surface so that when sunlight hits it, you get moving shadows cast around the room. It also has elements that are completely transparent; you can see the room through and around the sculpture. I like when my work and the setting work together, and this piece does that effectively.
My favorite art form is art theater — so it was a lot of fun for me to be alongside the theater program while completing this project.
Where do you live?
I live in Central Denver and have lived in Colorado for 40 years.
If not a Silverthorne native, what is your hometown?
I am originally from New Orleans. My husband and I came here for work right after college, and I worked as an elementary art teacher for a number of years before going back to get my MFA at CU Boulder. I’ve been working in the public art realm ever since, exhibiting and doing adjunct faculty work.
We have two children who are grown now; both are teachers, and one is also a sculptor in New Orleans.
How did you come to show your art at the SPAC?
An old friend connected me with Silverthorne’s art committee. She asked if I had something suitable for SPAC, and as it turned out I did, so I sent some images and got selected. I was thrilled as I love the opportunity to work in high-ceilinged spaces.
What do you love to do in Summit County and especially Silverthorne? What changes have you been excited to see, and what have been your favorite developments to the Town as it has grown?
I did a commissioned piece up here a few years back, for a private client in their Silverthorne home. They had a dramatic architecture niche in their living room and decided to commission an original piece. I spent the day putting it up while the homeowner worked, and it was a blast. I enjoyed the most beautiful views over the mountain — just spectacular.
Other than that, I love coming to the mountains in the winter, though I am not a skier. I think winter is when the Colorado forest is the most beautiful.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I like to snowshoe, hike and swim laps. When indoors, it’s reading or jigsaw puzzles.
Coffee or tea?
Beer, whiskey or wine?
Wine, I would say.
What’s on your playlist?
I listen to classical music when in the studio. When I’m in New Orleans — my second city — I love to go out for live jazz. When I need to really concentrate in the studio I don’t have any music on at all.
Any other interesting facts you’d like us to know about you?
About a month ago I exhibited with my son in New Orleans. It was great! Once two artists start talking art, everything else drops away. It’s not mother to son but artist to artist.
If you saw me, you would say, “How can such a little person make these big sculptures?” I think I might be compensating for being on the petite side, and so I dream these really big pieces.
I completed an installation for the city of Fort Collins’ performing arts center years back, and I got to fulfill one of my lifetime dreams: a sculpture so big we had to rent an enormous crane to put it up. I got to watch these big pieces of steel — my pieces of steel — swinging across a big blue Colorado sky. I loved watching my shapes swing.
The Silverthorne Performing Arts Center houses rotating art exhibits featuring a variety of mediums from talented artists across Colorado. Barbara’s exhibit will be on display through mid-February, accessible for viewing any time the center is open.