Alanna Baird

Artistic Statement for Pentamerism

Pentamerism – state of being pentamerous, the most familiar type of radial symmetry. Where the “penta” indicates five rays of an organism are arranged around a central point or axis.

A new word for me, one which aptly describes a current focus in my work, a focus derived from close observation of the shell patterns belonging to sea urchins. A mathematical approach to an organic series. The division of a spherical object into repeated patterns. Patterns created with bumps and holes.

The works shown in this exhibition “Pentamerism” began in 2005. Many small steps taken slowly but steadily in this direction. I had a “bucket list” desire to work in bronze. I realize now that my personal collection of ceramic work has been quietly speaking to me from various shelves around my home. Those well loved forms present in my day to day life. Powerful shapes from my past, the strength of form, like an egg shell, sea urchin shell, and fragile ceramics. I have spent the majority of my life along the shore of the Bay of Fundy. I constantly gather tiny bits and pieces while I walk on the shoreline. Rocks, shards of clay, glass and shells. I delight in the discovery, and in the details. Whole or broken by time.

I began by making a mold of one of my ceramic pieces and casting it into wax. My initial response was to work it as I had the clay, a process that was not successful. But I kept going, and learned a new language around this material wax. How it defies fragility. From timid tiny piercings to the use of a 3 inch hole saw in a drill press. Gradually removing more of the surface material then left intact. Letting the eye complete the form even if the surface has been removed. Exposing the interior, allowing light and air to pass freely through. And for me, the excitement of shadows cast. As if the work is gradually disappearing, leaving just a trace. Exploring patterns, the repetitive division of a spherical form, pentaradial symmetry.

All of this the initial step of working wax. Then on to casting in bronze. I was able to work hands on, making the sprue systems, creating the ceramic shell molds, doing the burn out and final pour at Dick Klyver’s studio in Eastport, Maine. I have since taken my waxes to Inverness, Quebec to have a foundry do the casting. I have done the last steps of grinding and patination in my studio, completing this series while still learning more of the process. Taking part in each step gives me insight into work yet to come. I have felt a connection to my past work in Raku firing, the partial control of the results, the “happy accidents” that lead to new directions.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the organizations and people who helped me during the steep learning curve of this new-to-me process, lost wax cast bronze. I am grateful to ArtsNB for the Creation A grant which allowed me time and money towards creating this body of work. I would like to also acknowledge some of the people who generously shared their knowledge: Laura Nagora from Parks Canada who introduced me to silicone mold making. Dave Clendinning, Dick Klyver and Ken Waiwood who shared their insights into lost wax casting. Brigitte Clavette and Chantal Gilbert for sharing their patina processes. And Alastair Fox whose supportive encouragement throughout the process has been invaluable to me.

I would also like to acknowledge Covid-19 and the cancellations and opportunities that came about because of it’s presence. Flexibility seems to be the key in the year 2020. A year of ups and downs. Covid cancellations have allowed me to present two simultaneous shows. This one that can be viewed in person, and a second virtual show that is all about the process of getting to these pieces you see on display, called “in process: Urchin” online through the NBCCD’s website or @TheGeorgeFryGallery on Facebook. I am delighted to have the opportunity to have two solo, connected but unique shows!

Artist Biography

Alanna Baird, best known for her playful sculpture in recycled metal, is an accomplished ceramicist, printmaker, three-dimensional plastic sculptor and arts mentor. Having launched her career in the late 1970’s as a potter, Alanna has 40 years of full time art practice, developing her skills and applying them across multiple mediums. She is regarded as one of New Brunswick’s most diverse artists, with a long history spanning both craft and fine art. Baird’s contribution to both the New Brunswick Craft and Art communities has been quietly prolific.

In 1993 she garnered international attention when the American Craft Council chose her first tin fish sculpture to include as only one of two Canadian Craftspeople in a publication celebrating The Year of Craft in North America. Baird’s first large solo exhibition was “Metamorphish 2010” at the Trinity Gallery in the Shenkman Arts Centre in Ottawa, which featured 50 of her sculptures. In 2013 she won The Canadian National Sculpture Competition, Kingsbrae Gardens. She has completed several large public art commissions, including a 17 ft “Ichthyosaur” for The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta; “Mackerel Run” for the Town of Montague, PEI’s sculpture trail,;“Spike, The Sea Raven” for Huntsman Marine Science Centre and “#DotSpot” for Saint John’s Cargo-tecture Competition. Recognized by her peers, Alanna has been the recipient of numerous ArtsNB grants and has served regularly on juries. As one of Sunbury Shores’ core resident artists, she leads a successful Print Studio and contributes widely to the health of the local and provincial arts scene.

Her recent work involves revisiting her early raku fired ceramic pieces. The Sea Urchin Series involves working across multiple mediums: printmaking, bronze, and plastic calligraphy. This series involves the complexity of silicone mold making, wax casting and altering, and ceramic shell mold making towards bronze. Surface patterns are being explored through the mediums of printmaking and plastic with the use of a 3D printing pen. As an upcoming Artist in Residence at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery she will ‘draw on the collection’ using a 3-D pen.

Baird’s work can be found internationally in private and corporate collections and is represented by galleries in Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Maine and Bermuda. She lives in St Andrews, New Brunswick where she maintains a full time practice, sails her small wooden boat and runs a print and sculpture studio.