Two of Houston’s most vibrant and compelling gay painters have joined forces to bring a jolt of excitement to Space City’s visual-art scene. To celebrate the merger of their studios, Wood Fancher Anthony and Robin Baker will present more than 50 of their paintings this month.
The exhibit, entitled at Together: A Two Man Show, will be open to the public on the last two Saturdays in September from 3 to 9 p.m. at Hardy & Nance Studios, 902 Hardy Street. Private showings are available September 20–25 by appointment. The event will include solo pieces as well as collaborations by the pair, who have known each other for more than six years.
The exhibit is both a celebration of their studio merger and the result of COVID-19 economic stress. Art shows and sales have dwindled this year, creating a financial strain on the entire creative community. The two decided to consolidate resources and are opening their new studio space after a month of hard renovation work.
“One day we were talking, and I mentioned the idea of combining studios,” Anthony recalls. “I was mostly joking, but within minutes of me saying it, it started to make sense. About a week later, we decided to do it, and about a month later, we started completely renovating the studio. We added new floors, new lighting, and we started sharing the wall space. Now it’s the prettiest studio in all of Hardy & Nance.”
The partnership is also a chance for the two to piggyback off of each other’s creative vibes and contrasting résumés.
Unlike Anthony’s experience, Baker’s art career began as an act of defiance.
“I took only one art class in school. My teacher hated me and gave me an F. Then I won ‘Best In Show’ in a scholastic art show. I gave her the [proverbial] finger and have been painting ever since,” says Baker, who has been creating for 40 years.
He originally started with ceramics, but moved to other media when he downsized his studio space and couldn’t accommodate a kiln to finish his pieces. Now, Baker uses acrylic on canvas to create high-contrast black-and-white human figures.
Anthony began painting when he was 15, even though he was never formally taught how to paint. His style is rooted in his Mexican background, with bright colors prominently displayed in oil on his canvases.
“Once I started, I’ve never stopped doing it. It’s something I keep going back to. I keep developing and challenging myself with each painting. It’s been an evolution for the past 27 years,” Anthony says.
While their styles differ, elements of their work have been influenced by their health. For Baker, a biological malfunction in one eye prevents him from seeing colors the way other people do.
“I have a lot of eye issues, and I don’t see very well. I see a lot of shadows, so I do high-contrast and negative-space type stuff. If I look out of one eye, you’re in Kansas. If I look out of the other, you’re in Oz,” Baker explains, referencing The Wizard of Oz’s famous shift from sepia tones to Technicolor. “It’s a lot easier to paint in black and white because I only have to buy one color of paint, and I specialize in those colors because of my eyesight.”
In the same vein, Anthony’s latest paintings reflect his recent fibromyalgia diagnosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fibromyalgia is a condition that can cause pain all over the body, as well as sleep problems, fatigue, and emotional and mental distress. “People with fibromyalgia may be more sensitive to pain than [other] people,” the CDC reports.
“My health is collapsing. I know it doesn’t look bad when you see me, but the truth is I feel like a 75-year-old,” Anthony admits. ”In these paintings I’m showing what’s going on with me mentally. I wanted to make them slightly erotic as a challenge, because it’s nerve-racking to paint like this. I’m also wanting to show that it’s really all ‘surface.’ Just because it looks okay on the outside doesn’t mean it’s okay on the inside. There are some rough things going on behind each one of these paintings, but I don’t want to present people with the ugliness. I want to present people with beauty. I guess that’s my way of getting around it.”
Both artists intend to continue creating individual pieces in their new studio, although they would like to extend their collaborative relationship in the future. For now, they are hopeful that Together: A Two Man Show will serve as a salve for the last six months of canceled showings and lost sales.
“Most people assume artists just do this as a hobby—that we have other jobs and do this on the side. But this is my living, and it’s getting difficult to survive,” Baker says.
For more information on Wood Fancher Anthony and Robin Baker’s Together: A Two Man Show, visit hardyandnancestudios.com/event/robin-wood-together.
This article appears in the September 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.