Written on Skin
Baila Litton is one of the many serious artists in this area who is committed to her work in her studio, exploring new technologies and challenging herself to refine her voice in the work that she creates. I interviewed her in her vast, fourth-floor studio, jammed with current and past work. She was a tenant in the Artcraft Building on Superior Avenue long before it became a mecca for other area artists. Litton has crafted her career over the years and remains committed to issues that are meaningful, important, and that continue to inspire her work. A constant theme is the human condition. In one of her best known series, Herstories, she explores the female face, tattooed with images relating to each woman’s life, rich with something beyond that which we see, mythic, archetypal.
Litton’s process involves layering the images of the women she has photographed with many skins of collaged paper, drawings, paint, and fabric. In the end, the viewer encounters a revelatory work that is richly textured with ancient characters, text, symbols, and maps. Their history is written on their skin.
Litton’s current series, Super Healers, came about after the death of a dear friend, where she began to explore the role of healers in our society. In her artist statement, Litton writes: “Healing is a sacred art. Healers have occupied a central position in our history. While medicine is a body of knowledge, healing is a personal skill…” She goes on to point out that healers must be joined by someone who is open to being healed and therefore, healing is a two-way process. She is also aware that although many forms of healing are lauded, there are those that are still disdained in other areas. Super Healers is about how the heart, body, and mind come together to affect a transformation. Litton, using a similar mixed media process, is able to create this large body of work of the healed and the healers using patches and bits of material that transform scars and wounds into a unified whole through her art.
Litton is the recipient of three Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships in 2000, 2001, and 2003, and an OAC Individual Excellence Award in 2006. Her work has been included in numerous group and solo exhibitions, both locally and nationally, including a solo exhibition at the Butler Institute of American Art and in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2004-2005.