Newfoundland’s mountains tie a painter to her home in Jamaica

A report by Colleen Connons for the CBC.

Angela Baker grew up in Jamaica, but the mountains of western Newfoundland are her favourite painting subject.

Baker, who came to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1976, says the geographic ruggedness of the landscape here appeals to her.

“I learned about resettlement and talked to the people who used to live in the abandoned communities and the whole experience of dislocation — of leaving your birthplace, the place where you belong,” she says.

Those stories inspired her south coast series of artworks, an area of the province she spent about seven years researching.

Baker paints in her living room. 

Her series of paintings on the southwest coast, from McCallum to Cape La Hune, appeared in art shows in Corner Brook and St. John’s.

Now, Baker is preparing to paint the mountains of a very different place, but one that is also familiar to her: those of her birthplace, Jamaica.

Back to her roots

In her 70s now, Baker feels the pull to go back to Jamaica.

“I just feel the need to go back, to what made me who I am.”

There’s a nostalgia in painting the place where she spent her childhood and adolescence, Baker says, and a connection between the two places she call home.

Some of her paintings of the landscape on the southwest coast hang in her living room. 

“I have a passion for mountains from when I was raised in Jamaica and grew up in the foothills of the Blue Mountains,” she says. “I think that’s why I connected so well with the ruggedness of Newfoundland.”

There are similarities between the mountains on the two very different islands, Baker says, particularly in the pale blues that stand out when viewing them from a distance.

‘Mass and broken colour’

In her Corner Brook home, which is like a two-storey art studio, Baker works away on a landscape painting of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, which she’ll place above her piano.

Baker pulls on her painting pants and whips on a white smock that’s splattered with a rainbow of colours. She drags her swivel chair close to the canvas and starts dabbing the oily blue and black splotches of a banana leaf.

“What I’m doing with this is I don’t want any detail in this, basically just mass,” Baker says. “Mass and broken colour.”

It’s a bright fall day, and you can hear Baker’s neighbour chopping his wood for the winter. 

She’s painted Newfoundland, and now she’s painting home. 

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