The MARITIME ARTIST
BY DONNA CRARY
Talk to Jane Baldridge and you quickly learn that her life has revolved around her love for the sea. From the days growing up along the coast near Galveston, Texas, she spent much of her life sailing and racing sailboats, working at her family-owned boat store, and later in life, becoming a licensed boat captain.
“I’m a sea level girl,” she says. “I want to be on the water, in the water and looking at the water.”
It comes as no surprise then that her artwork reflects her passion for the sea. Looking back over a career that spans almost 50 years, she points out that moving water is the theme in most of her work.
In her Sea Stories paintings, Baldridge portrays rich visual abstract seascapes that are translated through acrylics on canvas.
“My joke about the blue is if you’re sailing for three weeks and all you see is blue sky and blue water, what do you think you’re going to paint when you get home?” she notes. “In my sea stories, there were all of these pretty days — those tranquil, perfect days for snorkeling the reefs. But, I have plenty of storm stories, as well. I have tapped deeper and deeper into some of the darker sea stories — some of the storms that I have endured.”
Baldridge’s journey with water started as an infant when her mother placed her in a bassinet underneath the seat of her sailboat. Her mother was keeping a watchful eye on her older brother, whom she had to chase from time to time.
Coming from a long line of sailing adventurers, Baldridge says she was always happy while on board. She sailed offshore for the first time at 12, feeling completely liberated with no land in sight. At 13, she was part of a group that sailed to Veracruz, Mexico. That trip ended up as quite an adventure that included being surrounded by Mexican gunboats, sailing into a hurricane, losing engine power and being reported lost at sea.
Additionally, she became a competitive sailor in her teen years and in 1976 won the gold medal for the Adams Cup for the U.S. Women’s Sailing Championship.
It was during the 7th grade that Baldridge discovered that she had artistic talent while in Suzi Smith’s class. Smith was an art teacher who was strict and brilliant, recalls Baldridge, and brought out the best in her.
“Something clicked,” Baldridge says as she looks back on those days. “From then after, I blossomed. She gave me great guidance. She was the kind of teacher that shared with me the rules. She said, ‘You don’t copy out of Time or Life magazine. If you want to draw a lion, you go on a safari or go to the zoo. Take your own pictures. See your own thing. Do original work.’”
Baldridge’s artwork has flourished. She started out using pencil, pen, and charcoal and stayed with black and white. One of her early drawings gained national attention and a gold medal in drawing which was featured on the cover of Scholastic magazine.
Since those early years, Baldridge has expanded her career creating art that is inspired by her time at sea. Her accomplished work has been shown worldwide including at Lincoln Center, Times Square, the Louvre, Museum of Computer Art and the Library of Congress.
More recently, her work has been exhibited at the Elliott Museum. After moving to Stuart in 2018, she responded to an ad from the Fort Pierce Art Club calling for artists to enter a show by making a piece of art out of three-quarter mannequins. Not hesitating, she covered the mannequin with navigational charts and then painted waves over the body.
“When I created her, I was so excited, and it all of a sudden hit me how powerful full-standing mannequins would be by being covered in recycled navigational charts that are specific to areas at risk of permanent inundation or experience repeated flooding from storms and tides,” she explains.
Baldridge illustrates rising sea levels in her latest exhibit, Oceana Phenomena. In addition to being shown at the Elliott Museum, the exhibit has been displayed at museums and galleries in Annapolis, Maryland and Key West. Her stated mission is to raise awareness about threats to the coastal environment.
“I want people to respect the oceans and the bays and the rivers,” she says. “I want them to protect them. I want them to know that without them being clean and healthy, we cannot survive. I want them to understand how powerful storms are, but also that the ocean is defenseless against us.... We need to move the needle by using art as a way to reach people who haven’t embraced the situation.”
Occupation: Artist and boat captain
Lives in: Stuart
Family: Husband, Jeffrey Fisher; son, Jason Cook and daughter-in-law, Brittany Cook
Education: California Institute of the Arts; The Glassell School of Art
Hobbies: Sailing, reading and gardening
Who inspires you: Georgia O’Keefe and Judy Chicago
Something that most people don’t know about you: “I have been pronounced lost at sea twice in my life. The first time, I was 13. Additionally, I was accepted as a signature member in the American Society of Marine Painters and the National Association of Women Artists in 2020.”
Nov. 15, 2022