Nancy Baker

During my childhood in New York, I loved visiting the Cloisters, which houses part of the Medieval Art holdings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is a brilliant reconstruction of several medieval monasteries resited in Northern Manhattan. All the jeweled chalices and high gothic obsessive painting , every gold object, every minutely carved rosary bead was an antidote to the bleakness of my life. I have spent a lifetime trying to be perfect, to paint the perfect pearl.

I constantly look at images, all kind of images. Bad TV, fine art films, Japanese Anime, illuminated manuscripts, anything online, Currier and Ives, alien and sci-fi imagery. A couple of years ago, I came upon an illuminated manuscript called “City of God,” based on the writings of St. Augustine, illustrated by “Maître François” for Jacques d”Armagnac, Duke of Nemours (d. 1477). Augustine wrote “City of God” as a response to the sack of Rome by the Goths. The Romans believed that they had incurred the wrath of their gods because they had embraced Christianity. St. Augustine sought to explain all this through his discussions of a City of God and a City of Man. St. Augustine declared the message of god to be spiritual, not political.
Augustine did not endorse militarism or empire and peace is one of his prevailing themes. However, the Gothic illustrations for his text are amazingly violent and have an extremely wonderful bizarre cartoon quality; they seem much like graphic novels for the aristocracy of the high gothic period in France. In my paintings, I attempt to put a modern spin on Gothic imagery, to reflect the extraordinary spirit of our times.

Author’s statement, 2006