As is the status quo in nearly any artistic medium, visual artists draw inspiration from the physical world as source material for their work. During the creative process, they reference these pictures, memories, or transcripts dozens of times until the final product is complete. Once the finished pieces go into an exhibition, the original source material is oftentimes forgotten, discarded, or stored in a shoebox beneath the artist’s bed. This is not the case, however, when we look at the work of John Baeder, whose original photographs that inspired many of his photorealistic paintings hang in the Georgia Museum of Art’s Boone and George-Ann Knox I, Rachel Cosby Conway, Alfred Heber Holbrook and Charles B Presley Family Galleries.
Baeder, though born in Indiana, was raised in Atlanta and attended Auburn University. As he made frequent trips between Georgia and Alabama, he was no stranger to the roadside eatery in rural America. From an early age he carried a camera and photographed objects—old cars, derelict buildings, and portions of dilapidated towns—that evinced the phasing out of small-town life. His paintings really strive to depict that atmosphere embodied in those old diners with signs from the 1950s.
Baeder has primarily produced oils and watercolors, many of which are included in the collections of such museums as the High Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His original photographs, however, present a pleasant surprise to followers of his work as they were first and foremost considered reference material. It is one thing to see the painted product of an artist’s talent and creativity; it is quite another to see, in Baeder’s first strictly photographic exhibition, the objects that influenced him.