artist BIO

Karen Baker was born in Lawton Oklahoma and currently lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. She studied photography at UCLA and the Los Angeles Center of Photography, and in workshops with Julie Blackmon, Roger Ballen, Shelby Lee Adams, Keith Carter, and Ed Freeman.

Ms. Baker is a photographic artist exploring the narrative of American culture; the connection between culture, history and politics.  She works in the classic tropes of landscape photography, architectural photography, narrative photography and various other contemporary photographic practice. Within her new-topographic, neo-conceptualist images she uses The Baby and Da Babi'i, iconic American presences from childhood as visual rhetoric to critique, mock and pay homage to her photographic forebears.

In 2008 Ms. Baker launched her first works of photography and video at her studio, designed by James Fl. McGlothlin, as part of the Venice Art Walk. Her debut show sold out. Her first solo show in 2010, Family Vacation, at DKRM/GALLERY WEST in Santa Monica, expanded the oeuvre of The Baby as he appears in the guise of tourist in the narrative of the family vacation celebrated in landscape, architectural and classic snapshot photographs.

Ms. Baker continues to investigate American culture as a social subtext with her current series, Da Babi'i Alternative, There's A Freeway Running Through The Yard, and American Family.



There's a Freeway Running Through The Yard

Living in Los Angeles for thirty-five years became an exercise in navigation and time management. Where we live, how we interact with family and friends, how we get to work and spend leisure time are all predicated on the one thing, that oddly enough, due to its ubiquity we may never actually see any longer.

A plan for the Southern California freeways was produced in 1947 and construction began in the 1950s. As of 2004 some 61% of the network had been completed which resulted in a system with gaps and bottlenecks and the worst congestion in the nation. As the largest of 36 metro areas in the US, Los Angeles is recognized as one of the most underdeveloped systems in the nation and ranks dead last in terms of freeway lanes per resident; in terms of quality of life, challenging would be a generous description.

Freeways dictate what time, what day, what area we travel through to get somewhere. They are in backyards, they divide neighborhoods, they sometimes prevent movement at all.  A check with Sig Alert or Waze is imperative and somewhat akin to looking in a crystal ball to see if what we intend to do will actually be possible. I always felt a twinge of despair to an invitation or meeting planned across town on a Friday evening, or any time or day a Dodgers or Lakers game was scheduled. I have the experience of traveling 1 3/4 hours to go 7 miles on surface streets having to cross under a freeway at rush-hour, and being completely at a standstill at the top of the Sepulveda pass on the 405 at midnight coming home from a completely otherwise wonderful dinner with friends as I, and hundreds of other motorists, lined up to wait for a collision to be cleared. 

The images I have created document the dichotomy of freedom of movement with the limitations of it. The joy of the open road with the frustration of the division it creates.  They are subtle and quiet reminders of the possibilities and restrictions we have built.


Amboy TV, Venice Art Walk, 340 Main Street, Venice, CA  90291

Amboy TV, Venice Art Walk, 340 Main Street, Venice, CA 90291
Desert, Incognito, Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, CA  


Mayhem, Incognito, Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, CA  90404
Biking Baby, Venice Art Walk, 340 Main Street, Venice, CA  90291



Mayhem, The Alley, 1523 Cabrillo Ave, Venice Artwalk, Venice, CA 90291



Family Vacation, The Perfect Exposure Gallery, 3519 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA  90017


Salton Sea, Joshua Tree, Jenna, Venice Artwalk, 1523 Cabrillo Avenue, Venice, CA  90291



State Fair, Train Station, El Centro, Venice Art Walk, 1523 Cabrillo Avenue, Venice, CA 90291



Da Babi'i, Suarfjack Hotel, 412 Lewers Street, Honolulu, HI 96815
Family Vacation, Town, 3435 Waianae Avenue, Honolulu, HI  96816

Family Vacation, Driving, Mayem, MagPi, 12668 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA 91604

Family Vacation, Fox Studios Gallery, 10201 Pico Blvd.,  building 103, Los Angeles, CA 90067
City Center, Fox Studios Gallery, 10201 Pico Blvd., building 103, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Family Vacation, DKRM Gallery West, Montana Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90402
Family Vacation, LACDA Snap to Grid, 104 E 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013