Joan Backes is an American artist who was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Backes is known for her paintings which record different species of tree bark and for her installations, most recently her house series. Her work addresses issues of nature in contemporary society.
Backes received her MFA in Painting from Northwestern University, Department of Art Theory and Practice where she worked with Ed Paschke and William Conger. She received an MA in Painting at the University of Missouri. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.
Since 2000 her paintings have focused on trees and on the effects of overdevelopment. Her installations focus on the house as image and symbol, and often incorporate site-specific materials. Backes' Carpet of Leaves often use over 1000 leaves in each installation, bringing the outside in to the gallery or museum.
Public collections currently holding Backes' work include the Newport Art Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence, Rhode Island, Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts, The Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, the Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin, the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas, the Nerman Museum of Art in Overland Park, Kansas, the Rauma Art Museum in Finland, the Aberdeen Art Gallery in Scotland, the Reykjavik Art Museum in Iceland, the Hafnarborg Institute of Culture and Fine Art Museum in Iceland, the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, Kansas, the Wright Museum of Art in Beloit, Wisconsin, the Boston Public Library in Boston, Massachusetts, the John Hay Library at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, and the Beach Museum of Art, KSU, among others.
Permanent installations of her work include Internationales Waldkunst Odenwald Forest, Darmstadt, Germany; Berlin / Grunewald, Berlin, Germany; Linnaean Garden, Uppsala, Sweden; Silpakorn University Art Atrium, Bangkok, Thailand; and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Canada.
Backes has taught at Brown University, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Maine College of Art Graduate Program, Rhode Island School of Design, The Kansas City Art Institute, and Northwestern University.
- Constance Mallinson (March 2009). Joan Backes, Art in America Magazine.[pdf]
- Stephen Vincent Kobasa, (July/August 2012), “Joan Backes: Home”, Art New England, http://joanbackes.com/press/ArtNewEnglandReview.pdf
- Jan Schiefenhovel (August 2010). Haus aus Stocken, Flob mit Erbsen, Frankfurter Allgemeine.[pdf]
- Sebastian Johans Sebastian (May 2009). Stilt House is Installed in Linnaeus Garden, Upsala Nya Tidning.[pdf]
- Samila Suttisiltum (December 2007). Celebrating Nature. Bangkok Post. [pdf]
- Joan Backes Official Website
- Milwaukee Journal - Newspaper House Installation
- ar2com - Audio Interview with Backes, Forest House Deniz Köse (13 sept. 2010)