Five Questions With UHD Faculty: Dr. Susan Baker
By Sheryl E. Taylor
Her friends say she judges a city or country by its art museums.
For almost 25 years at UHD, Dr. Susan Baker has shared her knowledge and passion for art.
The first-generation college graduate earned bachelor’s and master's degrees in art history from the University of Oklahoma (OU) and a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas where she minored in Baroque art. Baker’s expertise is in 20th century painting (Modernist era). The Southwest native credits her studies at OU for offering an interdisciplinary degree program in art history that allowed her to take courses in philosophy, sociology and psychology. The professor of art history has published articles on painters George Tooker, Mark Rothko and Pablo Picasso. Before joining UHD, she taught at Tulane University followed by Stephen F. Austin University.
As education curator for UHD’s O’Kane Gallery, Baker has worked with UHD Professor of Art Mark Cervenka in garnering several Houston Arts Alliance grants worth thousands of dollars to support the Gallery’s exhibitions.
UHD News recently visited with Dr. Susan Baker for a lesson in art.
UHD News: Why art?
Baker: I was inspired by a professor who made me fall in love with making art in a studio course. But, I trusted my writing and researching skills more than my artistic abilities, so I took an art history class and I was hooked. I just knew right away that this was what I wanted to do and there was no looking back. I also love it because it makes you more tolerant when understanding people. Art is about life.
UHD News: Who are your favorite artist(s) and why?
Baker: To study, it’s Jackson Pollock and Picasso both of whom exemplify how artists pursue knowledge about themselves in the world. Art is much more than just creativity or emotion, it’s also about seeking understanding. It’s fascinating about what these artists discovered about the world, its optics and what they see—how we change what we see into what we know…the conclusions that we make.
My favorite artists to view are Caravaggio for the sheer craftsmanship and facility of how to put paint on a canvas. And, Rembrandt…it’s like looking at a big slice of cake…to dig your teeth into…the richness of surface and mastery of technique.
UHD News: If you weren’t a professor of art? What would you be?
Baker: An astrophysicist. It’s (astrophysics) at the center of everything we know about ourselves. When we learned that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe…it was mind blowing…it changed our view of ourselves, God and of one another.
UHD News: What do you want your students to get out of your classes?
Baker: I hope to provide the avenues that they need to understand the different facets of art and give them enough tools to go and explore on their own. I want them to learn that art is so much more than emotions...it affects your very being.
Your favorite aspect of UHD?
Baker: The students. They are amazing and appreciative with no sense of entitlement. They’re here because they want to be here. And, I just like them.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.