Carolina Art Crush: JoAnn Sieburg-Baker

HappeningsCLT: Describe yourself in three words.
 JoAnn Sieburg-Baker: Never completely satisfied! (Isn’t this true of every artist?) Although at many times in my career, I have felt really pleased with the “final” version of something I have produced (thank heaven for deadlines!), I never stop questioning.

JoAnn Sieburg Baker    ©Christie Negri 2015



HCLT: When did you realize you were an artist?

JS-B: I haven’t experienced that as an epiphany, exactly. I feel like I just came out of the womb that way.




HCLT: Who or what inspires you artistically?

JS-B: 1.Chance – I was wandering around a small private garden I discovered in Florence, Italy, in 2011, and I nearly dropped the camera when I rounded a corner and saw this:

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Wisteria, Bardini Gardens, Florence, Italy, May 4, 2011, archival pigment print on canvas, 48”x72”

2.I know it when I see it – I walked past this a thousand times, but it only looked like this that one time:

Hedge #1 (2010), archival pigment print on canvas, 36”x48”

3. Everything in the landscape, rows of things, vanishing perspective, beauty in the mundane, beauty in the spectacular, geometrics. My affinity for landscapes springs from my love of architecture and formal composition.The geometric shapes in an image are what I see first when I look through the viewfinder or on the ground glass. While composing the photograph below, the first thing I saw and the anchor of my composition was the triangle formed by the sky beyond the scene. Once I had that white triangle where I wanted it, everything else fell into place. Part of my intrigue with landscapes lies in the opportunity they provide to express the energetic quality of vast, spacious planes. Another is the abundance of natural earth colors, especially when it has just rained and every color is enriched, as in the photograph below.

Pine Tree Cathedral (2010) archival pigment print on canvas, 48” x 72”.  Part of a portfolio that won an honorable mention in the 2008 Prix de la Photographie Paris

4. The great filmmakers – Georges Mèliés, Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Hans Richter, Jacques Tati, Tod Browning, Chantal Akerman, Béla Tar, Yasujirō Ozu, Andrei Tarkovsky, Agnes Varda, Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, Man Ray, Chris Marker, Jan Svankmajer, Alfred Hitchcock, and this list goes on and on, too.



Made by Deren and her husband, Alexander Hammid. This film established the independent avant-garde film movement in the United States. Deren said that she wanted “to put on film
the feeling which a human being experiences about an incident, rather than to record the incident accurately”. I have this same focus in my work, which must be why this film haunts me.
LaJetée still frame

La Jetée (1962). Dir. Chris Marker. Distributed by Pyramid, 1962. Hulu Plus – The Criterion Collection

I was enticed to watch this film when I read Susan Sontag’s quote in On Photography: “And one of the most disquieting films ever made, Chris Marker’s film, La Jetée, (1963), is the tale of a man who foresees his own death, narrated entirely with still photographs.” This remarkable opus is a French sci-fi film, about the devastation of the world after WW III. It is set in Paris and tells of scientific mind control experiments that take a man into the past and into the future. The story centers around a childhood memory of the man about a girl he had seen on the jetée at Orly Airport when he was younger, and ends with his experiencing the moment of his own death. It is artfully woven, memorable, and, yes, disquieting. I was particularly interested in his use of only still photographs and voice-over narration, which I employ in my work.

5. Other artists – I think I realized this most when I was in graduate school, earning my MFA in Interdisciplinary Art. Naturally in this program, my classmates became my collaborators, and suddenly I was involved not only in photography and its fascinating history, but I renewed my love for filmmaking, which I had not practiced since before the digital revolution, as well as theatre, music, installation art, and creative writing. My professors were always available with good and inspiring answers, and constantly challenging me to approach things differently.
When I had my solo show at the McColl Center for Visual Art as an 11-month affiliate, my faculty advisor at grad school challenged me to add words to my exhibit (for the first time). I also painted the walls in the exhibit space in the style and colors of Mexico to give it the feel of an installation. You can view it here on my website. Another project I was challenged to produce by a grad school professor I eventually called Art-In-Three-Parts. It involved taking a still photo, sitting down in the place where it was taken to record my thoughts, feelings, and observations in written words, and recording a short audio clip of the ambient sound there. These can be viewed in my portfolio/thesis which has a clickable table of contents.
Midnight Diner

Midnight Diner, Charlotte, NC, 2014

This is one of the images in my Art-In-Three-Parts series. There is a paragraph telling how it felt to be there, and an audio clip, in which you hear the waitress call out “Welcome to the diner, Honey.” in a fine Southern accent.
Tell us about your current body of work.
JS-B: I always seem to have several going at once. At the moment I am preparing two 18”x24” pieces for Studio Party 16 mentioned above. The original images are photographs I took in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in March 2012. I made archival digital prints on fine art canvas that will be varnished and stretched. I have enlisted the help of my long-time friend and mentor, Massoud Shiraz, art conservateur, who will help me paint the frames, not in solid colors, but in an abstract manner that reflects and extends the colors of each piece. I am experimenting with putting some words on the frames, too – not sure how and if I’m going to pull that off. (Oh, was one of those three words describing myself persistent?)

San Miguel #7, 2016 – This image shows the original piece and a mock-up of what I want the frame to look like.

What do you think is the most valuable art experience in the Carolinas right
JS-B: I could not possibly pick one! There are so many things going on here. I suppose that is the most valuable thing… the variety of opportunities in this area for artists. I do have a special reverence for The McColl Center for Art + Innovation, where during my 11-month residency, I was surrounded by art, artists, and immersed in community outreach. The community involvement sparked an interest in me that has become a passion. And our wonderful museums and our Arts and Science Council, and the City and County’s 1% for art law – hooray! But, I digress…
What is your number one art piece/place/event in this area?
I still have a great and abiding love for Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Il Grande Disco at the corner of Trade and Tryon Streets in uptown Charlotte. I remember when it spun slowly and smoothly on its axis. I so miss that! The inscription on the wheel reads: “Grande Disco Our life today is one of crisis…of movement…of tension. We do not know what our world will become. I try to say something about this uncertainty in my work. I try to communicate a sense of vitality and connection with the movement of life today…and to be a part of its movement. The social challenge of art today, in my opinion, is to start a dialogue with the people. I hope that is what happens here with the Grande Disco. Arnaldo Pomodoro October 2, 1974 A gift to the people of Charlotte by NCNB and Carter&Associates” (For those who don’t know…NCNB is now Bank of America.)
The CATS LYNX Blue Line light rail extension has world-class public art components, such as Jody Pinto’s Light Station at 3rd Street, Dennis Oppenheim’s Reconstructed Dwelling at Tyvola Road station, Thomas Sayre’s Furrow at Scaleybark – to name just a few. Learn more here. Can’t wait to see what’s in store when the Blue Line Extension opens in 2017.

Jody Pinto’s Light Station , shot by me for CATS in 2008

What book is on your nightstand right now?
JS-B: You mean my iPhone, don’t you? I LOVE Kindle and Audible books! For me they’re easier to read on a small screen (because of my astigmatism), and listening to audio books, especially on long drives is a joy! I am currently listening to Graham Greene’s The Comedians, particularly because of its historical references to Haiti and Port-au-Prince, where I am doing some documentary work, as well. And I do have a library of lens-based media books – real books – with high quality reproductions of works of the masters. These often make it to my nightstand. My other favorite “books” are the great art films available from Netflix on disk, Fandor by subscription, and Hulu Plus’ Criterion Collection by subscription. There are others but these are my go-tos.
Best meal in the Charlotte area?
JS-B: At my house! But after that, probably Luna’s. Oh, and Lang Van, of course!
Where can we see your work?
JS-B: Right now, I have a piece on display in the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, as part of the exhibit, “She tells a story”. The exhibit runs from March 19th through September 11, 2016. On April 16th, I will have 2 pieces in Studio Party 16 at McColl Center for Art + Innovation. The exhibit will be on general public view from April 18 – 29, 2016 at 721 N. Tryon Street. On April 30th,
_1270386I will be part of an exhibit by the Community School of the Arts as part of their “Applause!” event. The Knight Gallery at Spirit Square will be exhibiting works by CSA art instructors and their students. I have been documenting one of their community art programs, called Get Ready With Words, an early childhood multidisciplinary literacy program funded by PNC Bank, and directed by Annabel Manning, CSA Community Arts Program Manager. My documentary photos of this program will be included in the gallery exhibit. Eventually the nine 24”x30” grid panels will be on semi-permanent display at Spirit Square and Charlotte Public Library’s Imaginon: Joe and Joan Martin Center at 300 E 7th Street.
You can view my graduate school portfolio (2015) by clicking here. It includes a lot of my work with a clickable table of contents, so you can go directly to what you want to see. It contains galleries of my work, essays, my Art-In-Three-Parts series which consist of a still photograph, a short written piece about how it felt to be in the place where the photo was taken, and an audio clip of the ambient sound there, links to my videos, and reviews of some of my favorite fine art films – with still frames. My website address is
What is up next?
JS-B: I have recently updated and upgraded my fine art digital printing studio, and am producing fine art editions for other artists, as well as my own work. I have a special series of black and white pinhole images I shot at a historic Victorian house in Asheville that have been waiting for this printer. It produces large, rich, stunning black and whites!

Burning Bush, 2009, 6”x9” archival pigment print on paper


Vine, 2009, 6”x9”, archival pigment print on paper

The Trees Project (working title) is a documentary video about the felling of two very old trees, one a 213 year old white oak, the other a 75 year old deodar cedar, to build a state-of-the-art facility for Alzheimer’s occupants, and the reuse of the wood in the facility through architectural elements and the inclusion of beautiful vessels and other objects formed by Anatoly Tsiris. There’s something wonderfully symbolic in there. My job is to show that. I’ve been working on the project for a year, and last week I went to the dedication of the new facility. Now the hard (fun, best) part begins – the editing. I will also have some of my fine art images of the trees permanently installed in the interior spaces, and I will be the first solo show exhibitor in the new
gallery there.

Anatoly at the White Oak, Early Spring, 2015


My favorite picture of me. This was taken in Florence, Italy in May 2011.

One thought on “Carolina Art Crush: JoAnn Sieburg-Baker

  1. Pingback: DAILY: Gala roundup | HappeningsCLT

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