BIOGRAPHY - Erika Baez (Born 1982)
Born in New York City and raised both in Manhattan and the Dominican Republic, Erika Baez recalls that she “always carried crayons” with her as a child. Although art remained largely a hobby for many years, she has developed a strong sense of artistic direction since graduating from Baruch College in New York in 2004. Her bachelor’s degree in graphic design and photography led to a job in the commercial art world, but she soon realized that it didn’t offer the satisfaction that she had anticipated. “Fine art allows a more personal narrative” according to Baez, and that is what she began to pursue after a year spent working as a graphic designer.
Like many young artists, she found herself working at a ‘day job’--in her case doing accounting--in order to pay the bills and save money for further art education. By 2008, she had enrolled in the drawing and ceramics program at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland where she subsequently received a scholarship to study at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. This not only offered an opportunity to study the masters of renaissance Florence, but also provided Baez with a solid foundation in classical drawing. Like Leonardo DaVinci and Alessandro Botticelli, whose work she particularly admires, Baez began her studies with graphite drawing, then moved on to the use of charcoal. This time-honored process, by which young artists are taught the classical traditions of western art, has its roots in the quattrocento studios of the Florentine renaissance.
Life at the Angel Academy of Art also allowed Baez to travel to other European cities including London and Paris, but it was an exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence itself that most impressed her. Entitled Art and Illusions: Masterpieces of Trompe L’oeil from Antiquity to the Present Day, Baez observes that she was “completely taken by the detail and rendering in these works.” This remarkable display of trompe l’oeil painting introduced her to a new perspective on storytelling and classical realism in art.
Fueled by an enthusiasm for trompe l’oeil painting, Baez began researching art schools as soon as she returned to the United States in 2010. Ultimately, she found the Ani Art Academies in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania where founder Anthony Waichulis structured his curriculum on craftsmanship and focused discipline. Baez was selected as an apprentice in 2010 and completed her course of study in drawing and painting in 2013.
Beginning in January 2013 in Pennsylvania, she embarked on a three-month program of weekly study with Joel Carson Jones, a trompe l’oeil painter whom Baez describes as one of her favorite artists. Her focus during this time was on learning more about trompe l’oeil techniques and color--how to mix it and how to use it effectively. As has been her pattern, she continues to experiment and explore the possibilities of both drawing and painting.
Today Baez lives in Charlottesville, Virginia and is investigating plein air landscape painting, a relatively new genre for her. Her primary focus, however, remains still-lifes and portrait painting, both of which allow her to create narratives within her work.
Janet Whitmore, Ph.D.