At 5 p.m. Wednesday, members of the Providence community gathered in List Art Building 120 to hear Yevgeniya Baras discuss her experiences as a studio artist and a curator. Originally from Russia, Baras immigrated to the United States in her youth and is currently based in Brooklyn. She teaches art at both the Rhode Island School of Design and Sarah Lawrence College.
The talk began with Baras discussing her career as a studio artist and exploring the way both her Russian roots and her life in the United States have influenced her work. “I (want) my paintings to be bilingual,’” Baras said as she described her usage of text and symbols to depict her personal experiences. “Sometimes it’s a single word in a different language that I speak, sometimes it’s an acronym that I made up, sometimes it’s a combination of different languages … I like to play with letters as a way to make form. They give the painting structure and it’s another way to imbue the painting with meaning,” she explained.
While Baras makes a conscious effort to be aware of where the symbology originates, it occasionally feels like the symbols in her work are just “floating in the ether,” she said. “My paintings are often said to be encoded,” she added. “They’re like closed universes.” However, despite the esoteric nature of some of her artwork, Baras feels closely connected to her art. “I work on 20 to 30 paintings at once,” she said. “It’s like being a part of a big family with kids.”
“I really liked the way (Baras) plays with media,” said Josh Cabello ’19, referring to Baras’ unique incorporation of materials in her artwork. “Sometimes I find materials and sometimes people who are important to me give me materials and I embed them in my work,” Baras explained. For instance, when Baras’ friend was immigrating from the United States, she gave Baras her curtains, which Baras proceeded to insert in one of her paintings to “function as the frame.”
In addition to her work as a studio artist, Baras also spoke of her role as a curator. In 2010, she co-founded and was a co-curator at Regina Rex Gallery in New York, alongside a group of other artists. Being a curator allowed Baras to interact with different artists and understand more about “other artists’ lives.”
The job of a curator is to pair different kinds of artists together and re-contextualize their work, Baras said. In that sense, it parallels the work of artists. “I began to feel like my studio is my practice and the gallery is just a different branch of my practice,” she explained.
“I think it’s really important to look at the types of artists that have a dual role in the community,” said Kristine Newson, the academic program manager for the Visual Art Department. Baras “is both curatorial and an artist, so she can provide that dual perspective of what it’s like to see art in the real world in relation to other art being created, as well as taking inspiration from around her and making (art),” she said.