Interview: Carrie Anne Baade

9 Baade St.Rage oil on panel 16 x 20inches2007Carrie Anne Baade’s bizarre, colourful images are filled with allegorical details, with layers upon layers of meaning. She has a taste for the fantastical and the surrealist. Her paintings have been featured in Metamorphosis, a survey of the top contemporary Visionary Surrealists. Today, she stops by to talk about literature, Pop Surrealism and the beauty of the Innsmouth look:

IFP: OK. here we go. Please introduce yourself in 140 characters or less.

CAB: Carrie Ann Baade is a painter/professor who enjoys plumbing the depths of the human condition, searching for a subject for her surreal paintings. Her sordid subjects include ectoplasm culled from the mouth of a maiden to a female wearing a codpiece. While there may be fantastical leanings in her interests, each embodies a narrative that is an allegory for real experiences from an extraordinary life.

IFP: Can you tell us how you began painting in the Pop Surrealist style?

CAB: I found my own style and was simultaneously discovered by Jon BeinART of the International Surreal Art Collective and Alix Sloan, gallerist and former director of La Luz de Jesus Gallery. It was just great luck to be painting at the same time as so many great artists. My work was mostly inspired and informed by looking at old masters, so it was a great revelation for me to realize there were so many amazing artists creating in the present. Of those, Chet Zar, Jessica Joslin, Chris Mars, and Kris Kuski are among my favorites.

CarrieAnnBaadeThe Bride Stripping the Bachelors Bare smallIFP: Is there a recurring theme in your paintings?

CAB: I have always loved the strange and unusual, yet sorrow has been a large theme for me. It is as eternal and perennial as love…but easier to paint than its counterpart; joy and sorrow are chained together, thus we cannot have one without the other. I find great profundity in this subterranean river that runs underneath the happiest moments. As the breadth of the paintings’ themes has continued to grow, I like painting subjects that, in polite society, people are not supposed to talk about, wrap these up with a pretty veil of metaphors, and present it to the viewer.

IFP: Can you talk a bit about your technique and the materials you use?

CAB: I am a painting tech geek. I am interested in archaic practices, materials and methods of the old masters. I am known to paint on copper, work in egg tempera, use lead white instead of the more-modern titanium, and make icons with 22K gold leaf with intricate design work.

IFP: How does literature influence your paintings?

CAB: Sometimes, I can run my eyes over just a section of a painting and I can hear what I was listening to when I was painting, even years later…like a record groove, I can hear the passage from the book. I listen to about eight unabridged books a week as I paint. Anything from Kitty and the Midnight Hour to Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, The Count of Monte Christo to a biography on Einstein. One of my favourites is Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, about English magic. No matter what I am painting, I have a suspicion that the books somehow make it into the painting as I am working. I was listening to Anna Karenina while painting The Involuntary Thoughts of Lady Caroline Dubois and that IS DEFINITELY in there. On a purely-rational level, I use the symbolic visual language of metaphors and allegories to tell my own stories, but I am interested in building passageways into as many predetermined symbolic attributes as possible. To achieve this, I will collect imagery from, say, The Scarlet Letter, Isabel and the Pot of Basil from the Decameron, and Marcel Duchamp’s sculpture to create a painting about the underground world of female lust and how it turns a woman in to a monster, and then marry it with cut-up images of the Virgin Mary. For reference, this is called “The Bride Stripping the Bachelors Bare”.

IFP: Is there a painting that has been especially difficult to complete and how did you handle such a challenge?

CAB: My paintings are a little like giving birth and conceiving can sometimes be a challenge while pushing it out is also tedious. I am very tenacious. I give myself little breaks to do handstands or something and then I push myself to jump back in. I never, ever say, “I will think about it tomorrow” (in the voice of Scarlet O’Hara). I am a do-it-NOW person or don’t do it at all. There is a book called Art and Fear that is supposed to be about how to overcome the problems and issues of not producing. I have a logical phobia of this book…I don’t want to get any ideas.

IFP: What are you working on right now?

CAB: I am working on a small series of icon paintings with gold leaf frames that are “Icons for an Imperfect Existence“. My titles are “Our Lady of Psychotic Optimism” and “She who Sings During Stormy Seas“. In the current uncertainty of our economy, I find that we people are pinning their hopes on a return to good ol’ days and an optimism that may be unmatched by reality. I still think it is good to pray and to pray for something wildly beyond reality seems only fair.

1 Baade The Ectoplasm of Miss Svengali As Produced by Madam Phantam Illusionista oil on panel 24 x 30 2007(2)IFP: Your work reminds me of Remedios Varos. Is there a specific painter that has greatly influenced your work?

CAB: I adore Remedios Varos. She died too young to achieve the status she is due in the greater pantheon of great surrealists. There are many historic and contemporary artists I owe a debt to. Julie Heffernan, Laurie Hogin, and Judith Schaechter are among my favourites, but I have always had a deep affection for Fuseli, Moreau, and Blake…and H.R. Giger. In fact, give me another 20 years to get a bit further with my work. I think it will be interesting with all these influences.

IFP: If you could only take three things to a deserted island, what would you take?

CAB: Funny you should ask. I am about to go to Bali with Alex Grey…but that is far from deserted. So I think it’s only reasonable that I would take the great Alex Grey, a prop plane and one of those towels Douglas Adams invented from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I figure Alex should be allowed to take 3 items too…something like: paint/brushes, canvas, and DMT…should be a great time.

IFP: So, are you a lady or a tiger?

CAB: I think my understanding is that every woman is both. It just depends on our mood and if we have been recently fed. But if I could choose, I think I am actually a rabbit with tiger stripes or I had a creeping suspicion the other day that my soul animal might indeed be a hamster on Adderall…which concerns me a great deal.

IFP: I was very happy to learn you enjoy Lovecraft’s work. What appeals to you about his stories?

CAB: “Dreams in the Witchhouse” with its strange mathematics, “The Music of Erich Zann”, “The Colour Out of Space”, are among my favourites. I need to reread everything, but love that there were strange and unexplainable events that he could describe with such eloquent detail. The horror was sensing all the events without being able to name what the specific danger was. All the sensing was very suspenseful and poetic.

A-Catapillar-ExplainsIFP: If you had to paint a Lovecraftian picture, what would it look like? What characters would you feature?

CAB: I have attempted to paint the view from the window of Erich Zann’s attic room. It was a failure. However, years later, I was in Brugge and I saw a building that looked like it had been warped by a culling of malignant forces. It was dumbfounding. I was transfixed. Later, I learned it was an artist’s installation that was up only briefly. They made the entire façade of the house look like a distortion…as though reflected on the surface of water. It was amazing to imagine that this artist made a perfect-yet-distorted replica…even the windows were warped, both subtly side-to-side and back-and-forth. Illusionistically convincing in every way. I have also painted an original composition titled “Abduction of Brown Jenkins”…It was also a failure, in my opinion for many years, and then I finished it in a hurry for an art auction to raise money for a nonprofit. It turned out well in the end, but alas, there is no photo. I would like to try re-reading and trying again to successfully bring out elements from H.P.’s work.

IFP: If you could be a Lovecraftian character or creature, who would you be and why?

CAB: For years after reading “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”… I would describe girls like Jackie Onassis, Britney Spears, Britney Murphy, or Christina Richie with wide-set eyes on a rating scale…as in, “Wow, she is at least 14-percent Innsmouthian.” It seemed a logical way to explain their bizarre beauty. I believe that 19 percent was the greatest one could be in my opinion and still be considered uncannily-beautiful but perhaps requiring a chin implant. My eyes are set a little close together, which excludes me from the rating. I suppose I would like a little more blood from Innsmouth…but just like 11 percent, nothing greater.

IFP: Is there anything you’d like to tell our readers?

CAB: I promise to read H.P. again and pick up the trail again. I think I could be gleaning more from his genius. Do check out my website:

Carrie Ann Baade’s gorgeous paintings can be viewed at her website.

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IFPInterview: Carrie Anne Baade