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High school art teacher Dona Baker was thrilled to be asked to display her work at a local gallery, so she accepted immediately. There was only one problem, she said: Baker hadn’t painted in years.

“I said yes. One of my favorite artists had invited me. I was so flattered I said yes. The next day I was like, ‘What was I thinking? What am I going to do?’” Baker recalled.

The invitation plunged her into six weeks of frenzied activity, the five fruits of which are now on display at CalvART Gallery in Prince Frederick alongside some of her ceramic pieces. The exhibit is CalvART’s way of acknowledging February as Black History Month, but Baker’s work is also part of a larger show, “The Things We Love,” which opened Feb. 7, Baker said.

Baker focused on things she loves, including her children, the female form and the colors red and green. A still life of vegetables is the female form in disguise.

“They’re like the female form to me. Pears are like the form to me. I didn’t know why I was so drawn to it, and it finally dawned on me,” Baker said.

A ceramic peapod with three peas also has special significance.

“It’s about my children,” Baker said.

Visitors shouldn’t expect an explicit focus on African-American issues; Baker’s views of race were shaped by her childhood.

“No, it doesn’t” have much to do with Black History Month, she said. “So I thought, this is going to be interesting, to see people’s reaction. I’m originally from Jamaica. To quote Ann Curry, I come from a long line of open-minded lovers. I have a very diverse background. My experiences have been different than someone who was brought up in this country by parents who were brought up in this country.”

Mimi Little, an artist and president of CalvART Gallery, personally invited Baker to show her work. She knew Baker in part through the Huntingtown High School teacher’s Advanced Placement art students, who have exhibited and even sold their work at the gallery.

During these interactions, Little became familiar with Baker’s projects and knew it as “great, great work,” Little said.

“Oh, it’s beautiful. She was so excited because she said it got her back into painting. A lot of time, teachers, they’re so busy teaching they don’t get a lot of time to do their own work,” Little said.

Baker is determined not to let her creativity slump again. To abet her latest spree, her husband installed heating in their backyard studio in Owings, “so I had no excuses,” she said.

“My goal is to not stop because it’s been so wonderful. I think it’s hard for teachers, in the individual arts, depending on if you have family and what’s going on in your life, hard to make time to create. So, when we’re forced to do it, it’s great. Such an energy, and you take it right back into the classroom. I feel as though I’ve just woken up in the last few weeks,” she said.



Meet the artist

Paintings and sculpture by Owings artist Dona Baker will be on display 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays through March 3 at CalvART Gallery, 110 Solomons Island Road, Prince Frederick.

An artist’s reception will be held 5-8 p.m. Feb. 23 at the gallery.

Call 410-535-9252, email calvartgalleryjls1@comcast.net, or go to www.calvARTgallery.org.

emitrano@somdnews.com