Vendome Press, Pub. October, 2015
John Baeder—one of our most important contemporary painters—is known for his unusual subject matter, often associated with roadside architecture, especially diners. The popularity of Baeder’s diner paintings and the spectacular sales of both editions of his book, Diners, spawned an avalanche of imitators. Baeder has been much more than a “diner painter,” however, as shown by his original roadside photographs, his sign series, paintings of small-town America, Nashville and Southern images, classic Las Vegas casinos, and other subjects from the heyday of 20th-century automobile-oriented culture.
Baeder’s ability to express the ways that each diner or mom-and-pop eatery was at the heart of a created community, a skill far more important than simply recording the transitory details of roadside subjects, differentiates him from his photo-realist contemporaries and makes him important to American art history. Baeder’s quest to discern his personal values within the visual culture of roadside America coincided with his discovery of the essence of America’s identity. Like Charles Kuralt and Bill Moyers, Baeder has been oriented to the American scene as metaphor. Baeder’s heroic quest was to present enduring archetypal values in the guise of humble taco trucks, window-sill still lifes, and diners, to make his viewers understand, that “we are enveloped and steeped as though in an atmosphere of the marvelous; but we do not notice it”—a message as true for our towns and cities as for Baudelaire’s Paris. This quest was not self-conscious, but one that was central to his continuing “individuation,” the life-long process of becoming truly oneself.
– Jay Williams
A Road Well Taken by Fred Koller and Ken Spooner
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