Artist Q & A: Sheri Bakes

In our latest Q & A, BC based artist Sheri Bakes talks with us about the importance of the awareness of breath, the connection between gratitude and the creation of art, and her enduring optimism as an artist. An Origami of Wind, the new exhibition by Sheri Bakes, opens on October 21 and runs through November 2, 2023.


Sheri Bakes, Summer Rain. oil on canvas, 60 x 66 inches.

1.Your new series is evocatively titled An Origami of Wind. Can you tell us about your fascination with wind and how it interacts with nature?

My Mom brought me along to her yoga classes when I was a newborn and I grew up sharing in this practice with her - she was my first teacher. She incorporated yoga practice into her entire life: spine rolling on the floor when I was 4 or 5 years old, tree pose while peeling potatoes at the kitchen sink, assisted warrior one asana while palliative, and finally her profound and challenging meditation and breath work through her last days. In more advanced study of yoga I learned the foundational importance of breath and this awareness has carried through into the studio and into the work.

2.Several of your new paintings carry the feeling and colours of dusk – is this deliberate, and is dusk a favourite time of day to paint?

This is an interesting question. I hadn’t thought of that but it’s true. My Mom loved sunsets and the time of day where night begins is something I’ve been paying a lot of attention to these days.

3. Your new works are an exploration of both Vancouver Island as well as the North Shore mountains of Vancouver – how do you feel these two areas compare in terms of similarities and differences? Do these places carry differing energy?

When I lived in Vancouver I hiked in the North Shore mountains with my dogs 4-5 times a week in the mornings through the spring, summer and fall months. We mostly hiked a couple trails on Mt. Seymour and the more we hiked these trails the more I felt the ever changing landscape occupying space inside myself. The boundary perception between inside and outside of myself became very thin. I suppose this is also true for the areas of Vancouver Island I’ve been fortunate enough to explore. I hadn’t considered a similarity in energy before but I think I gravitate towards certain kinds of energy and these two places offer this specific energy and light in really strong, consistent abundance.

Sheri Bakes, Origami Wind. Oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches.

4. Your work carries a fascinating combination of both scientific and emotional inspirations – can you describe some of them and how do you unite these seemingly disparate influences in your work? For example, you have mentioned in the past being interested on how sensory stimulus can affect the brain (scientific), and also that you sometimes paint as physical act of gratitude (emotional).

I’m not sure I know how to answer this question.
I guess I don’t see these influences as all that different as they do intersect. It’s finding the intersections between them that I find most interesting and exciting.

I think one of the most influential experiences I’ve had was attending a meditation retreat in Indonesia in my early 20s. Somehow that experience set my brain up to be able to access and recognize and make connections really clearly. That experience helped me know how to meditate through having a stroke, which was a pretty incredible test of being able to navigate the mind while the brain was dealing with a major, potentially life threatening issue.

I love pulling from so many different disciplines and finding the thru-threads where they intersect. I think it’s the practice of mysticism to find where all seemingly individual pathways converge and the energy generated when those inter-connections are made is really what (for me personally) fuels my life’s work. Gratitude is definitely a cornerstone of my daily practice, both in and outside of the studio. I think the finished paintings are a hard copy archive of gratitude in physical form.

Sheri Bakes, Planting Flowers. Oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

5. BC’s wildfires have grown increasingly prevalent – has this had an effect on your view of the significance of landscape painting?

BC’s wildfires are something I’m very aware of going into the studio, even more so now that I work and live within a grove of massive trees that are over a hundred years old. Living within this kind of potential danger impacts daily choices made during fire season and the concern isn’t an abstract one. There are so many facets to this issue, from an environmental and climate crisis standpoint to insurance companies not issuing insurance in “fire zones” for those who seek insurance to the helicopter pilots who are grateful to have work when fire season comes. Personally I am very emotionally impacted by the suffering and hardship of both human and wildlife in the wake of these wildfires and am always very grateful when communities come together to help both.

6. There is a sense of optimism in your paintings, and fans of your work consistently note the calm and meditative feeling that is translated through your images. Is this one of your conscious goals when creating your paintings?

Yes. This makes me happy. It reassures me that I’m doing what I’ve been called to do.

The artist in her studio.

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