A Decibel Disparate: Exposing the community to local artists: musicians, writers, designers, performers, thinkers, who are doing things outside of the “Annapolitan box.” You will find no sailboats or Blue Angels here. This is a place for raw and unique talent. Let us look at our city with a “view askew.” Diversity is life.
By Brianne Leith
Photos by Alison Harbaugh
“I’m a showman…and a shaman.” Walker Babington laughs heartily. “I’m all about the spectacle. I am spectacle. A lot of my artwork is spectacle…” Walker’s voice becomes deep and gravelly, completely metal, “THIS IS MADE OF FIIIIRRREEE!”
“I’m good at spectacle.”
Yes, Walker Babington is phenomenal at spectacle. He walks into the coffee shop and all heads turn to watch him. Two teenage girls consistently stare at him the whole time I talk with him. Charismatic, unusual and entrancing. Walker Babington might as well be one of his own art pieces. The way people react to him, especially the teenage girls, is exactly the way people react to his art. You cannot take your eyes off of it. You cannot take your eyes away.
Women blowtorched into pieces of old wood, doors, and rusted metal. Different patterns of fabric laid over one another to create another figure. Candle wax dripped onto a splintery old door in the appearance of a woman showering. Barnacles scraped off of a pier with a shell found on a beach to reveal a face peering out. “I see what needs to be on it, not what’s on it.” Walker’s art is insatiably modern, traditionally classic, and ingeniously futuristic.
“I call it post-apoplectic art. After the Apocalypse everything will be left in ruin…all we will have is scraps…but we will need to decorate.” Walker smiles largely and twists his handlebar moustache.
Walker’s fire-centric art he calls “pyrography” or “torchtraiture.” “They sound dangerous…everything has a little bit of danger.”
With that element of danger, Walker fell into this unique form of destructive creativity unintentionally. Starting with photography, he learned that the editing process that comes along with good photography was not for him. “I don’t have that much…can’t look at a computer for that long. But my roommate was a really good photographer.” Walker started branching out creatively and stumbled onto fire. “My friend had a child named Burning. I had a blowtorch sitting around, so I thought I will make a burning for Burning. It ended up looking really cool.”
“I like to do portraits with media that is connected with the subjects…like Skaters made out of skateboards. There was no added paint or other materials, just skateboards and the silhouette scraped out of their surfaces.”
Our conversation, the interview, is randomly broken as people approach Walker and begin talking to him. He is always humble and genuinely nice, so watching him kindly interact with the people who are drawn to him and interrupting his art musings, is just an added pleasure to the night. Walker turns to the girl sitting next to him and puts his palm over her face and pretends to rip it off. “Ha-ha! I got your face…your face looks like my hand.” He looks back at me, crosses his left leg over his right, and returns to a serious interview composure. His fitted white shirt with blue sleeves is dirty from burning art earlier, and he has a Band-Aid on a finger of his left hand.
“I do art and kind of live art. It’s just as much about the artist as it is about the art. Being wacky and doing crazy things, moving everywhere…the more preposterous my life is the better my art sells…the more people are interested.”
And Walker Babington’s life is almost surreal. After trying to peddle his art in Annapolis, he moved to San Francisco and got invited into a prestigious art collective. He made an interpretation of Hell out of cardboard for a Children’s Museum with the Cardboard Institute of Technology. He has lived in India. He has lived on the beaches of Costa Rica, collecting driftwood and making his living by burning things into it and selling it on the streets. He has lived with gypsy kids.
People gather around and give him money just to watch him creating art, with his Mohawk, welding goggles and burning things on the street. His stories went on as he spoke of pretending to be witchdoctors with a Westernized marketing spin with coconut heads he created with a fellow street artist. “One sign said ‘Small Heads Impress Your Friends.’ We didn’t get to do it though…we had to skip town super fast.” I laughed out loud thinking of what happened that made him need to leave so quickly. He just looked at me, his blue eyes flashed with impishness, and did not explicate on the reason.
Walker raises his red bandana to his mouth and chews on it slightly, before raising it to his forehead and speaking again. “My art keeps me out of trouble. I have a lot of creative energy. If I am not using that energy creatively it becomes mischievous energy. I think I was arrested about once a year until I started doing this.” He looks at me and thinks about the question of why he creates art, and rephrases his answer. “All day in a garage, blowtorch, gas mask…What would that do for you?”
Walker Babington does not have a website dedicated to his wonderful art. He does not have business cards. “I hate business cards because it feels like business…I want it to be fun.” He has his art up on his Facebook page and has been willing to give his email address (email@example.com) if people need to contact him about his art.
“I’m not a philosophical artist. There is no layers of meaning in my work…It actually took me years to say ‘I’m an artist.’ I just don’t like the stigma that comes with being an artist…and don’t get me started on the stigmata.” Though the photo shoot had been hot, humid and physically draining, Walker’s spirits are up but slightly subdued from his typical rambunctiousness.
He livens up as he begins to speak of the Party/Fundraiser he is throwing to go to Stunt School. “I am looking forward to finding new ways to make my living around fire…and I think some great performance art will come out of my art and stunts.” The fundraiser is at The Get Down in Fell’s Point on the night of July 25th. It is a free event, Stunt Double Feature. Two stunt-heavy films will be projected silently on the wall, while Walker does some live art performances, with Indie Music filling the air. Some of his art will be up for raffle. Come and join in a fun time, an artsy time, a complete blast. Meet Walker Babington, someone beyond a normal understanding. Someone who is so unfathomable he becomes personable, attainable, and enchanting.
Walker Babington is a creative inferno.
He is a work of art doing amazing works of art.