~ Edit Your Words By Jan DeGrass Portfolio Welcome References Services Resources Portfolio CV Books Contact Jan DeGrass
© 2014 Edit Your Words.ca - All rights reserved, Website designed by SCD
Big Projects, Minimalist Styles by Jan DeGrass Published in Coast Life, Winter 2013 Artist Bill Baker was up a ladder at Sechelt's Seaside Centre hammering new walls into position. Claudia Cuesta was moving rapidly around the venue, hanging artwork and discussing display with two professional curators. An art exhibition, part of the Sechelt Arts Festival, was opening that evening and the 16 collaborating artists planned to push the boundaries for contemporary arts exhibition on the Sunshine Coast. The artistic couple had produced and designed the show. They organized the curators' tour of the Coast's art studios and even added 40 more feet of walls at the last moment. Some aspects were tricky since the installations had to be freestanding to fit with the Seaside Centre's timber construction. It was ten months of work for the couple, for a show that was up for only ten days. But what a ten days! "We wanted it to be challenging and provocative," said Cuesta. "It was a show that people had to think about and come back again. The comments were incredibly positive." The two had served on Sechelt's Arts, Culture and Heritage committee for four years and understood that change comes slowly but is helped when artists are challenged and young people are inspired.  "Art is an important aspect of being alive," said Baker. "Youth need to see that." Cuesta and Baker share an aesthetic and both have years of professional education and practice to shore it up. Baker's background is in residential design and planning, particularly in the construction of off grid houses and public art installations. Cuesta (whose artist's name is Sageele) has a background in fine art study and sculpture from the Slade School of Art in London. Their home and studio, designed and built by Baker, is on a large, forested lot in Sechelt that yields a spectacular view of the strait from its length of passive solar windows. Within, the studio and workshop is high-ceilinged, airy and bright. It's built for light. "Bill is all about light," said Cuesta. The light shines on their guest artist show, it splashes on Cuesta's healing room, on their office desk that brims with plans and sketches, on their guest room and kitchen that manages to be both minimalist and cozy at the same time, and especially on their current art projects. Most of what they do is by commission and currently they are creating 16 colourful, thick, fused glass panels for a project in North Vancouver. "It's a world saturated by images," Cuesta said. "How do you engage people? I found that colour works—it gives an immediate response." The couple travel a lot to visit the sites of potential commissions because they like to feel the energy of a place and see their art in the environment. For example, a commissioned work in tempered glass and aluminum called Dancing Tower was placed in front of an old fire hall that had become an Arts Centre in Newton, Surrey, a neighbourhood with a poor reputation involving drugs and gangs. The tall tower had good exposure to passing cars. "We wanted to alter the neighbourhood to give it a focal point," Baker said. When a dance troupe choreographed a program around the tower, they knew they had succeeded in a small way. Other public art includes a 180-foot long glass and metal structure in Vancouver's Kitsilano and a floor to ceiling glass sculpture opposite a curved spruce bench. "Most projects are large," Baker says. "We like to work within the whole space." Some of the fabrication is done in his workshop but they also employ others from the Coast community to assist them thus keeping the money in this community. The driftwood used for the bench was a piece found by wood artisan Earl Carter. An award-winning project in Vancouver's Coal Harbour of 36 handcrafted townhouse gates was described by an architect as "minimal, elegant and beautifully integrated to the architecture." In this case, the process was as interesting as the designs. The couple interviewed the townhouse residents, asking them "what is home?" They added a series of pedestrian screens for privacy. Baker and Cuesta will continue to have aspirations to create and explore, and to find ways to make interventions into public space that are kind and that encourage people to feel a sense of place. It's what they do.  
"unfailingly encouraging and supportive" "top editor with terrific coaching skills" "knowledgeable, helpful, prompt and reasonable"  - references