found poetry in soho

In a timid building in the middle of hectic SoHo, a green door and a very steep staircase lead to the home and studio of the artist Erica Baum: A loft packed with high bookshelves, newspapers, magazines, and dozens of boxes filled with different toys (her son’s). On the white walls, few pieces of her body of work hang in very simple frames.

Forget all those preconceived thoughts about crazy-genius-drunk artists, messy spaces, and lots of assistants frenetically running around. Baum, a very humble, good-humored and bright artist, works alone – and in a very sane and methodical way.

In the early nineties, during her MFA at Yale, Baum started taking pictures of desktops details and notes left on blackboards after classes. She was drawn to human ‘ephemeral’ forms of expressions – as it related to her love of langue, Anthropology, and photography.  

Erica Baum, 2009,   Differently.

Erica Baum, 2009, Differently.

Only a few years ago, after her catalog and index card series, Erica replaced her old large-format camera for a digital one – “only for practical reasons” -, since she still insists on not digitally manipulating the images. Each one of her pieces preserves the color and texture of the materials pictured – books, newspapers, or even piano rows – and the words and expressions found in them.

The beauty of Baum’s work, which she explains in a very lyrical way, lies in her search for ‘hidden poetry’ in day-to-day objects.  Her series of index cards and Dog Ears pieces shows us exactly that: there are poems hidden everywhere, in plain sight. The artist specifically selects the words to create her poetic work; ‘writing’ poetry through the lenses of a camera.

Unlike many other artists, while working, Erica doesn’t listen to music – but to the news: “I don’t know why I do that, it’s just a habit.” Currently, her artworks are in Berlin, Paris and at the Met; but she doesn’t make a big deal of it. Concerning the selection of images on the shows, sometimes she chooses the works, sometimes someone else does it: “I think it’s interesting knowing what other people like.”

After a couple of hours of talk, she has to send us away, because she must pick up her son at school. Surrounded by all this lyricism, what Erica doesn’t seem to notice is that she is a found poem in the middle of a frenzied art world.