The eXTra finGer

...''He was counting on his fingers.One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven.Eleven?Had he been born with an extra finger?''...

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Interview with Carl Baratta

q) What is your name and what do you do?

a)My name is Carl Baratta and I live and work in Chicago. I work for both the Art Institute of Chicago in the museum and I teach painting and drawing in the school. I show at Western Exhibitions and have super talented artist and writer friends.

q)When did you really get into art?

a)I’ve always drawn. I think I started drawing with Vaseline on my bedroom walls when I was 1 or 2 years old. By 3 or so I graduated to crayons. My mom is an artist and she taught me how to draw and really helped keep me interested in art. My father was an English major and he used to read us Grimm’s fairytales, ghost stories and tons of Greek mythology.

q)How did you come to the realization that you should try your luck at art on a more serious level?

a)I love working in my studio and talking about art around other artists. It was a natural pick to make a go of it as a profession. I’ve always had a lot of support from both my friends and my family. I couldn’t keep up the pace without them.

q)How did you discover the particular style that you have?

a)I used to make drawings of giant robots, super heroes, and people dying or getting melted or weird –violent-disturbing scenes when I was young. Eventually I went to Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and worked on more traditional subject matter in my paintings and drawings. The first couple of years there I learned a lot about art history in general and color field painting specifically. I’m a colorist at heart I guess, and I gravitate towards that type of painting. Eventually I became frustrated with having two very separate bodies of work and since then I have been trying to meld some of the more traditional abstract painting I have come to understand with my other weirder type drawings I have been making since I was a kid. I should say, that those types of drawings (the super hero/ D&D stuff) was getting boring too. Each aspect of what I was making needed to be fused together to keep me excited in the studio. My work needs both at the same time.

q)How would you describe your style?

a)I’ll use anything I can get my hands on if it looks interesting and I think it will help convey a feeling or mood I want to explore. I’ll use any imagery from anywhere and from any time period. I want to tell open narrative stories and put lots of stuff in them. People have referred to my paintings as ‘adventure paintings’. That’s as good a description as any I guess.

q)Who or what influences your art?

a)I love visionary painters. Isak Applin, another fabulous Chicago painter, and I, image hunt together. We head out to shows all over the mid-west and hang out in the backs of libraries with huge stacks of weird forgotten books. We call the type of imagery we look for ‘The Dregs of Art History’. I love strange Alchemist engravings, Persian miniatures, giant monster movies, Ab-Ex painting, and film stills from Martial Arts movies, particularly films by King Hu and Tsui Hark. King Hu can really set up a camera frame in which you can see all the action clearly. Tsui Hark is almost the opposite in that respect. Hark conjures images that are both magical and confusing. One can get lost and immersed in all the frenetic action. I try to use clarity and frantic movement in each piece if I can.

q)How often do you create a new piece?

a)It really depends. I can crank out two pieces on paper a month if I need to. And by ‘need’ I mean for myself, not for a show. The new work is egg tempera on board and I find it works best to build up layers of paint. They take much longer. I work in different sizes all the time. I also put some away for a while and then come back to them. But I’d say it could take about two months to finish a piece these days.

q)What kind of success have you had with your art?

a)I’ve had a couple of great solo shows on the East and West Coast of the USA. I also had a solo show in Tokyo a couple years back………. A long while back I was in a great group show in Rome, Italy. All of my show experiences including other group shows and two person shows over the past several years have let me meet many wonderful and exciting artists.

q)What would be the ultimate goal for you and your art?

a)World domination. And maybe a swimming pool filled with beer. And then at some point the Louvre asks me to do a piece for them but I turn them down because I’m way to busy. Seriously, I’d love to be able to paint all day, 9 to 5 and then go out and see my friends. Maybe a little teaching too, just so I don’t become a total hermit.

q)What do you see as an accomplishment in the way of art?

a)As of last year I can travel to somewhere, have a show, sell something that will pay for my plane ticket and break zero by the time all’s said and done. If I can stay at zero and not be in the hole financially, I’ll be happy for ever! Maybe even someday I’ll make money!? …….. Probably not.

q)What kind of message, if any, do you try to convey through your art?

a)I’m not sure I have a specific message. I want to convey different types of moods and include the viewer. I guess you could say I’m more into the poetry of the visual language than I am in dogmatic prose.

q)Sum up your art in one word.


q)Any additional comments?

a)I think it’s important to make work you want to see in the world. It has to be from you, you have to have a relationship with it, and you have to be able to share that with others. Work should include the viewer and interact with the audience in some real way, always. It should stir the viewer’s imagination and burn images into their brains. If you can still see my work on the inside of your eyelids when you are safe at home, tucked in bed, then I know I’ve done my job well.

q)…your contacts…

a)I keep my website updated. Check it out!
Make sure to check my ‘friends page’. There are some pretty fantastic artists I know that live all over the world and their links are available from my site.

Also, my gallery here in Chicago has a great program and if you’re ever in town come pop by:


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