“I’ve always had twin loves; drawing and video art,” said Nancy Baker Cahill, whose solo exhibition “Through Lines” is currently on display at the Georgia Museum of Art. This mid-career exhibition features a selection of Baker Cahill’s new media, interdisciplinary, and transformative works that explore interactions between emerging technologies and contemporary art.
In “Through Lines,” Baker Cahill expands upon her traditional media background and foundational drawing skills to create finely rendered graphite drawings which she then tears apart and turns into torn paper sculptures. Those pieces are then animated into immersive 3D videos, and the original drawings reappear as still frames within the work, bringing elements of the works into a full circle.
Originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Baker Cahill’s early career includes working at a Boston television station. She officially launched her art career in 2007 when she moved with her family to Los Angeles.
Baker Cahill’s early artworks began with experimentation, transforming abstract graphite drawings into 3D digital renderings that were suggestive of organic forms. More recent works take that concept one step further, in her process she starts with 2D artworks that she then deconstructs and reinterprets into virtual reality and augmented reality artworks.
“For me the connection between drawing and video makes perfect sense (witness Paleolithic cave paintings which paired drawing and flickering light), but it wasn’t until I began drawing in virtual reality (VR) that I think I fully connected the essential entanglement of both forms in my practice,” said Baker Cahill.
For nearly two decades, Baker Cahill has created award-winning immersive site-specific artworks that have inspired and unsettled viewers across the globe. In some works, she utilizes the destruction and manipulation of 2D works to bring them into a three-dimensional space.
Those same concepts of transmutation also appear in laser-generated digital artworks appearing in the virtual reality space. There is a sense of play, and a distinct lack of adherence to traditional fine art rules, that is pervasive throughout Baker Cahill’s career.
“Experimentation has led to many creative breakthroughs in my work,” explained Baker Cahill of her art process. “To me, experimentation involves play in the sense that one plays with media, with subject matter, with traditional approaches, in order to generate new methods, perspectives and outcomes.”
Baker Cahill explores topics as environmental devastation and humanity’s impact on Earth in the current geological anthropocene. Her works have taken the form of mushroom clouds, mycelia fungal networks, abstracted forms of writhing paint strokes, and even handshakes that dissipate into pixels, all of which serve to pose important and confronting questions about humanity and our existence here on earth.
“I think the most fun part has always been having an idea and learning how to best express that idea, even if I’m not sure how to do it at the beginning of the process. The journey to sorting that part out is super valuable and inevitably fun, even when challenging.”
In “Through Lines,” the works invite viewers to reconsider the rules and expectations surrounding fine art, questioning how place, time, and space relate to the human experience.
The Jane and Harry Willson Sculpture Garden at the Georgia Museum of Art is home to “Margin of Error,” an AR installation that imagines an inevitable future in which human interference causes great harm to the environment. The work, which originally made a 2019 debut over the Salton Sea as part of the Desert X Biennial, seeks to emphasize the sweeping and impending impact of biological, chemical, and geological disasters created by humanity.
Inside the gallery, Baker Cahill’s fine art prints are activated with 4th Wall technology to leap off of the walls and into the AR space. The free 4th Wall app, which she created with developer Drive Studios, provides a platform for virtual artists to engage with audiences on a larger scale through a geo-location feature.
“Happy surprises occur most when I am fully engaged in making the work– when I am in what artists call the ‘flow-state,’” Baker Cahill continued. Her art practice requires technical know-how and a deep understanding of art techniques, while also holding space for flexibility that allows experimentation and concept development to take place organically. “In those moments, my mind is most open and porous and thoughts will occur to me that I hadn’t considered before.”
Baker Cahill explained that she hopes viewers of “Through Lines” will feel as liberated from the boundaries and rules associated with traditional artwork mediums as she does when she creates these artworks. She aims to create pieces that will prove to be expansive to the minds of those who view them, and perhaps will inspire the next generation of multi-disciplinary tech-driven artists to also break free of traditional rules surrounding fine art.
“Through Lines” will remain on display at the Georgia Museum of Art through May 19, 2024. The Georgia Museum of Art is located at 90 Carlton Street on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, Georgia.