The term “jack of all trades” is a figure of speech that generally carries a negative connotation (since the rest of the phrase is “master of none”). Someone who is truly exceptional in many different fields of work should be considered a “polymath”–someone who is excellent at many different things. Cara Ober is a true polymath of the Baltimore arts scene. Using a seemingly limitless supply of energy, knowledge and talent, she constantly observes and creates. Through her art, writing and teaching, Ober truly exemplifies the life of a contemporary working artist.
Originally from Westminster, Ober moved to Baltimore thirteen years ago as a MICA graduate student. While there, she learned the basics—landscaping, still life, portraiture. But, soon enough, she found her niche outside of classic study. “I made collage-based paintings that combined appropriated images and text into visual poems,” explained Ober. She drew much of her stylistic elements and subject matter from fond childhood memories. Her work from this period elicits retrospection, as if glimpsing into the artist’s mind.
After exhibiting her work post-grad school–primarily throughout the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area–Ober quickly discovered that blogging truly ruled the art world. Unfortunately for her (and other local artists), there weren’t any art blogs focusing specifically on Baltimore-area artists. That’s when Ober had a spark of genius; she created Bmoreart, a blog critiquing the local art scene. “For Baltimore to have a healthy, growing arts community, we need to have articulate, enthusiastic press coverage and a robust dialogue,” explained Ober, adding, “I see this as Bmoreart’s mission.”
Since its conception in 2007, Bmoreart has developed into one of the premier media outlets for Baltimore artists. Originally consisting of Ober sharing things she found interesting, it now has multitudes of contributors–each with their own unique perspective on the Baltimore art world. Some are actual professors, others simply hold an avid interest in art, design and writing.
Other local publications have noticed Ober’s passion. Within the past six years, Ober has written for The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Paper, and the now-defunct Urbanite Magazine. In fact, she’s gone on to write for Artnews and Art Papers, two nationally-renowned art magazines. Everywhere she goes, she spreads her enthusiasm for Baltimore art. “Baltimore is a great town for young artists–affordable studios, great energy, MICA quality control, and lots of young art spaces to show in.”
When she isn’t critiquing and promoting local art, Ober is busy shaping the next generation of local artists. Currently, she’s lending her experience as a professor at MICA and Johns Hopkins University, teaching Professional Development and Watercolor classes, respectively. She also acts as a juror for shows at Area 405 and Harford Community College. But, nowadays, Ober’s favorite student is her son. “Chasing around a two-year old boy is my current main project,” she jokes. Ober is starting him off early, by having him “collaborate” on some art projects with her.
Somehow, this ever-energetic artist still has time to create. Her latest work has taken on a new direction from her collage-based style. Instead, Ober’s work has become wholly encapsulated by pattern. “I have always been enchanted with decorative patterns and sampled it in my work, but this is my first body of work that has exclusively featured pattern,” says Ober. Her influences have changed, too. Moving away from the concept of personal memory, her artwork now harkens back further into the past, showing hints of ancient artwork tribal patterns and a minimal color palette. “I’m not exactly sure what’s coming next, but I’m excited to make new work,” remarks Ober.
At the moment, she is preparing for a busy spring, with two major group shows in New Jersey and Nepal–the latter a long way from home for Ober. But, no matter where she goes (or how endlessly busy she keeps herself), she’s always proud to represent the local art scene. Be sure to keep up with Cara Ober’s latest projects at caraober.com, as well as her (and other Baltimore-area artists) articles at bmoreart.com.