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John Baker

John Baker

Born: Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.

John Baker is a Buffalo-born and -based artist and art teacher whose work explored the triumphs and challenges of the African American experience.

John Baker is an artist, graphic designer, musician, and art teacher born and based in Buffalo, N.Y. whose work explored the triumphs and challenges of the African American experience.

Baker graduated from Buffalo State College with a B.S. in Art Education. From 1974 to 1980 he performed as drummer for the groups Souls of Solomon and the Gospel Six. As a graphic designer, he served as art director for Gladys Records from 1980 to 1984, followed by work for other organizations. Many local businesses and civic groups including several churches and schools commissioned murals by him over the years. He also taught drawing, painting, photography, and arts/crafts in the Buffalo school system.

But it was as a visual artist, encouraged from an early age by his parents, that Baker found his true calling. “I started to depict images that are very real to generations of my family in segregated Alabama,” he once noted. “Later I moved to more universal themes.” [1]

His acrylic-on-canvas representations of people, including family members, children, and bygone baseball players, were painted in a style that mixed realism and abstraction and made strategic use of color. As Sara Kellner, former visual arts director of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center put it, “John Baker’s paintings are powerful images from the history of African Americans. In his work he addresses civil rights and segregation; celebrates the accomplishments of the Negro Baseball League; and explores the effect of growing up in a racially divided culture. He is a remarkable artist; both a storyteller and teacher.” [2]

Baker himself described his working technique in characteristically direct terms: “When you eliminate the colors, the black and the white remain.” [3]


[1] Quoted in “‘Black & White in Color’: Exhibit by John Baker Opens at Wilcox Mansion,” The Challenger, May 1, 1996.  

[2] Quoted in exhibition brochure for Black & White in Color: The Exhibition / Paintings & Drawings by John Baker, Wilcox Mansion, Buffalo, N.Y., May 3-31, 1996.

[3] John Baker, artist statement, brochure for 21st Annual New Members Show, City Without Walls, Newark, N.J.,  September 12-October 25, 1996.