Erica Baum: Dog Ear

Erica Baum 2

Erica Baum, 2009, Differently.

Not often, but sometimes, I see an image that just makes something catch in my throat, and I am trapped in a moment that’s kind of like a stolen epiphany.  It’s a complex emotion because it is a desperate admiration, but at the same time a horrible aching wistfulness, a silent regret that I didn’t make this, because I want so much to be connected to it.  This is how I felt when I saw Erica Baum’s work Differently (2009) in the latest Aperture magazine.

It is from a series called Dog Ear and Nat Trotman writes this about it:

Works like Differenty (2009) and Enfold (2013) draw attention to the physical layout of margins, page numbers line spacing, and font design while transforming their found texts into syncopated blocks of signification in potentia. The regular folds that cut diagonals across each square frame recall the formal rigour of Minimalism even as they reference the more subjective act of marking significant passages in old books.

(Trotman, 2014, p. 75)


The Dog Ear images are so simple and yet so surprisingly complex. There is a a formal beauty to the lines, the way they form a little arrowhead shifting the gaze along the diagonal, and out of the (implied) book. And there is a quirkiness in the random poetry they create, which is sometimes nonsensical, and at other times, perfect and eloquent:






I? I would not do that.



There is a perfection to the discolouring and texture of the pages, and the occasions where hidden type is just visible as a trace through the page.  There is an element of the accidental in the make up of the work that gives it a square composition or clever sentence.  And they touch on all the things that excite me about finding old books, the paper, the typeface, the trace of past use, and the beautiful, clever, delicious words.

There is nothing I can learn from you Erica Baum, because I? I would not do that. differently.

Erica Baum 1

Erica Baum, 2009, Spectators.

Erica Baum 3

Erica Baum, 2009, Examined.


(And there’s a Dog Ear book too! I must have it!)

Ways to draw

win, lose or draw

draw fire

draw blood

draw down

draw up

draw in

draw off

draw on

draw away

draw ahead

draw out

draw in your horns

draw a bead on

daggers drawn

draw yourself up

draw and quarter

beat to the draw

quick on the draw

luck of the draw

draw straws

draw the line

draw a blank

back to the drawing board.

Accept that I can plan nothing.

Accept that I can plan nothing.

Any consideration that I make about the ‘construction’ of a picture is false and if the execution is successful then it is only because I partially destroy it or because it works anyway, because it is not disturbing and looks as though it is not planned.

Accepting this is often intolerable and also impossible, because as a thinking, planning, human being it humiliates me to find that I am powerless to that extent, making me doubt my competence and any constructive ability.

(Gerhard Richter as cited in Petherbridge, 2010, p. 431).

Visual art

At its best, visual art is philosophy by other means and poetry without words. Visual art asks the grandest questions, about the most essential ingredients of existence: about time, space, perception, value, creation, identity and beauty. It makes mute objects speak, and it renews the elements of the world through the unexpected, or it situates the everyday in a way that asks us to wake up and notice. This kind of art raises fundamental questions about the act of making, about what it means, whom it is for, what happens in that engagement with materials and history and embodied imagination.

(Solnit, 2013, pp. 192 – 193).

When research collides.

He later developed a cocktail of drugs made up of amphetamine, LSD and a pinch of cannabis. He wanted especially to see the colour indigo, which Isaac Newton had rather arbitrarily included in the colour spectrum. After taking his cocktail he faced a white wall and demanded: ‘I want to see indigo – now!’ He was rewarded by ‘a huge, trembling, pear shaped blob of the purest indigo.’ It was, he thought, the colour of heaven.

(Corballis, 2014, p. 142)

I feel a bit as though my research is haunting me.  Or maybe just rewarding my fascination with inter-contectedness. I recently finished reading The Wandering Mind by Michael C. Corballis, which, to my shame, has been sitting half-read on my night stand for some time (but in good company!) and was in equal measures delighted and disconcerted to read the above quote which describes Oliver Sacks (whose book The man who mistook his wife for a hat I read last year) and Newton’s inclusion of Indigo as colour in the rainbow, which I became interested in more recently!  I can’t decide if its a message from the universe that I’m on to something, or its a message from the universe that everyone else is onto something and I’m just late to the party.  I rather suspect the latter.