NORTH TONAWANDA — Take a little trip under the sea Friday at Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda when the solo exhibit, “Sink or Swim,” by Kimberly Baer opens to the public.
The show features 14 oil paintings of underwater landscapes and creatures, like sharks, sea turtles and even the rare angler fish — you know, that scary one with the needle-sharp teeth from “Finding Nemo.”
Baer, 23, doesn’t exclusively paint images of sealife — she also has a series on other animals and even baked goods — but decided to focus on water for her Project 308 show after finding inspiration while traveling to Hawaii and Alaska, and living seaside in Italy for a while.
The series began with a sudden desire to paint an unlikely, and perhaps dangerous, model.
“I first started with a great white shark because I wanted to paint the mouth. It interested me ... all the textures and colors,” Baer said. “I just saw it as a challenge, all the different components, and I started stretching (the series) further after taking a few trips to Hawaii and Alaska.”
Natalie Brown, owner of Project 308, described Baer’s style as traditional with a modern twist.
“She uses nice, saturated color ... she takes a lot of colors from nature,” Brown said. They “are really nice the way she blends them together.”
Baer agreed that the use color is very important to her work, but also emphasized her focus on brushwork.
“I try and go for representational, but not (necessarily) super realistic. I use a lot of artistic license,” she said. “My brushwork is pretty loose, very fluid. I really enjoy (people) seeing my brushwork.”
To that end, she works on very large canvases, her largest spanning five by 10 feet. The artist said she prefers the larger canvases because it allows viewers to “walk right into the painting,” almost becoming part of the world depicted.
“I enjoy patining large because painting small is so meticulous and you can’t get a lot of heart in it. Large is attention-grabbing,” Baer said. “It’s a better process because I’m in the painting ... the gestures are big and I can be free.”
The goal is to allow viewers a chance to see these sea animals in ways they normally wouldn’t be able to in nature.
“I was trying to make all the animals life-sized, and provide a very different perspective that you would never see in real life,” she said.
“The great white, obviously if you saw that (up close), you’d probably be dead,” she added with a laugh.
Baer is a recent graduate of Buffalo State College with a degree in painting. Brown said the show, which runs until Christmas, fits in with her desire to feature young, up-and-coming artists in the community.
“I really think she has a lot of talent. She’s a young artist, she’s new on the scene, but she’s been painting for years,” Brown said. The show is an opportunity “to expand the beginning of her career.”
The opening reception for “Sink or Swim” is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at Project 308 Gallery at 308 Oliver St. Refreshments will be on hand in the form of baked goods prepared by the artist herself, a former baker who specializes in vegan and gluten-free desserts.
For more information, call Brown at the gallery at 523-0068.
IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Sink or Swim," oil paintings by Kimberly Baer • WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Christmas. Opening reception is 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. • WHERE: Project 308 Gallery, 308 Oliver St., North Tonawanda • MORE INFORMATION: Call the gallery at 523-0068.
Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.