Painter Stella Maria Baer (@stellamariabaer), 34, is moving from New Haven to Colorado in a just a few days, but she’s called the East Coast her home for more than a decade. The New Mexico native went to Dartmouth before moving to Connecticut to attend graduate school at Yale. She ended up sticking around after meeting her husband and finding herself happily submerged in the city’s vibrant artist community.
Q. How did you end up pursuing art professionally?
A. My parents were always involved in the arts. My dad owned an art gallery in New Mexico, and my mom was a weaver and my grandmother was a sculptor and grandfather was a photographer. It was always part of the landscape of my childhood. I never really thought it would be something I wanted to do, until after college. I started painting as a private, secret practice and didn’t show anybody for a long time. For many years I only showed my family and close friends, until grad school, when I took a class where we had to do almost 100 paintings a week. And that’s when it moved from a private, meditative, quiet practice to something much more public and out in the open.
Q. How did your style develop?
A. A lot of my work in the past few years has been about the memory of where I grew up and the landscape colors in the Southwest. Growing up I always wanted to leave New Mexico and never wanted to come back, but the longer I’ve been away the more I’ve felt this pull backward. A lot of my work has been about being drawn back. The moons and planets have been a way to explore those colors while still moving forward into another space and subject matter.
When I look at the photos the Mars rover takes on Mars, I feel like it’s taking photos of a place that feels like home. There’s something about that landscape that’s so stark and otherworldly that conveys a sense of home for me. So there’s an overlap there. I also like how painting planets and moons brings together astronomy and astrology. In Santa Fe, both of those things are given such authority that those are present in my work.
Q. Do you think now that you’re leaving New England, we’ll see an influence of this area in your work?
A. Probably. Some people have predicted that I’ll start painting in blues and greens now that I’m leaving. We’ll have to see. I’ve been more drawn to blues and greens since we’ve made the decision to move.
Q. How has Instagram affected you as an artist?
A. It’s been great on one hand because people all over the world have found out about my work and bought my work because of Instagram. That’s mind-boggling. And for me, it sometimes feels like another medium I can work in, almost like a collage or another way to organize my creative consciousness and drawing out different things that inspire me. It’s also a very strange little world, where there are strange comments and trolls and ghosts and that type of weirdness.Interview was edited and condensed. Rachel Raczka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rachelraczka.