Emily A. Baker

Risk Verses Thrill

Performance with sculptural installation composed of steel, latex, projected video, and liability waivers. Merlino Gallery, California State University, Long Beach. Movers: Emily Baker, Nancy Scherich, Timothy Wood, 2017

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I come from a world of ponytail-facelifts, wedgies, and glitter hairspray, where chalk is the remedy for callouses ripped open, and athletic tape holds most of the team together. Gymnastics is synonymous with who I am. It’s how I stand out; it’s how I am remembered; it’s my identity. However, I am not able to continue with the sport that is my home; my aging body won’t allow it.

I re-home this athleticism to a place that still houses danger, the need for physical strength and ritual. In the metal shop, I negotiate the relationship between the memories encased in my muscles and ligaments by placing these temporal feelings within my steel and latex sculptures. They live in the ephemeral twists and stretch of the rubber tubing, and will eventually decay. In this site-specific installation and performance, we revert back to our rambunctious, childlike selves, our animalistic selves, our wild side. It’s about reminding our bodies what it feels like to play - unlearning the toe point and relearning the crawl.     

It’s about the ever-present fear of paralysis. It’s about hypothesizing about our body’s limitations and constantly testing these. It’s about bravery. It’s about thinking that we know our body’s limitations and proving ourselves wrong. It’s about kids these days. It’s about acknowledging the over-safe nature in our culture and pushing back because what’s the point of living if you only ever read about it?  It’s about the risk verses the thrill.   



Emily Baker is a multimedia artist based in California. The artist received her BFA in Interior Design from California State University, Chico, and worked in the fabrication industry upon graduating in 2011. She received her MFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in June, 2016. Throughout her time in graduate school her research was inspired by her past as a competitive gymnast and the need to channel raw muscle memory into an alternative format. Baker's work explores mark-making and seeks to document the visual space in-between start and stop. She examines the ritualistic nature of sport and the necessary endurance that is called upon when executing passion through motion. Presently, Baker serves as a lecturer at UCSB in The College of Creative Studies and the Art Department, and at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.