Online Exhibition

Jill R Baker

Performances for Hands and Desert Floor

Video, photographs, and works on paper (2017-2020)

Barry Lopez, in his introduction to Desert Notes (1976), writes, “You must come with no intentions of discovery,” and, “you have to proceed almost by accident.” I began in this way, relying on chance and improvisation with the desert floor to create a series of performances.

When I first came to the desert I was arrested by the space first, especially what hung in a layer just above the desert floor. ... I developed methods of inquiry, although I appeared to be doing nothing at all. I appeared to be smelling my hands cupped full of rocks.
(Desert Notes, 8-9)

In the chapter titled,”Desert Notes”, the narrator asks us, “Will you walk…the desert with me?” We are told to “Dig Down, the earth is moist.” We are told to wait and listen. “I will give you a few things: bits of rock, a few twigs…. You should try to put the bits of rock back together to form a stone….” Performances for Hands and Desert Floor employs this text as a prompt for performing a physical and embodied relationship with the landscape. Each piece considers performance, sound, and mark-making in landscape and was created on site in the Mojave desert outside of Death Valley National Park in Rhyolite, Nevada at the Goldwell Open Air Museum and Residency Program.

About the Artist

Jill R Baker is a visual artist whose work employs drawing, performance, and video to document improvised interactions with the natural world. We are gatherers and gleaners who sometimes mistake a fallen tree limb covered in lichen and moss for the body of an animal. We kneel by the water to return rocks to the creek. If there is no water we look under rock until our hands turn pink. We measure rainfall each morning in the garden beginning in the fall and think of ways to make drawings out of rain. She holds an MFA in Intermedia from the University of Iowa and is currently a new member of Eugene Contemporary Art. Her work has been included in galleries, project spaces, and screenings throughout the U.S.

Hands and Rocks

Hands and Rocks (2017) consists of 3 short videos that take lines from Barry Lopez’s “Desert Notes” as performative actions for hands and rocks on the
desert floor.

To Form A Stone (2017), digital video, 2:27 mins.

Dig Down (2017), digital video, 1:30 mins.

Smelling My Hands Cupped Full of Rocks (2017), digital video, 1:35 mins.

I Moved Rocks from the Desert Floor as I Walked (2017-2020) 

I Moved Rocks from the Desert Floor as I Walked (2017-2020) is a walking performance in which I removed rock from the desert floor, in acts of taking notice, leaving clues, marking my way. As I walked, I photographed the before and after, imprints of the missing rocks, and became interested in the shapes of the prints left behind.

A Desert Rock Draws Circles on Paper (2017-2019)

Continuing with my interest in the shapes of the prints of missing rock, I made circular gestures with a rock on paper.

A Rock Draws Circles on Paper (2019), charcoal on paper, 20” x 13”