British painter turned sculptor, performance artist, and mother of two, Bobby Baker uses the raw materials of domesticity–shopping carts, plastic bags, powdered sugar–as weapons in her witty, subversive performances. Poking holes in our notions of gender and value, she asks what divides housework from “real” work, domestic life from artistic life. In How to Shop, for example, she delivers a wry 78-minute lecture on the art of shopping, complete with pompous Martha Stewart-esque instructions on the correct ways to carry a grocery basket (in your hand, not on your arm) and push a cart when your hands are full (stomach or hip thrusting is acceptable). Also included is a tongue-in-cheek academic interpretation of a successful trip to the supermarket, a la Pilgrim’s Progress. In her sharply satiric Drawing on a Mother’s Experience Baker speaks in the chirpy voice of a cooking-show host as she demonstrates how to make an abstract expressionist painting a la Jackson Pollock using common food items: eggs, treacle, milk, tea. As she paints she discusses her experiences giving birth, her difficulties with breast-feeding, her attempts to economize, her half-stifled frustrations with a housewife’s lot, and her husband, who doesn’t share in the housecleaning. Just before the painting is finished, Baker’s point becomes perfectly clear: art is easy, life is hard, and artists don’t suffer nearly as much as working moms. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 773-722-5463. How to Shop opens Tuesday, December 3, 7:30 PM. Through December 5: Wednesday-Thursday, 7:30 PM. Drawing on a Mother’s Experience runs December 6 through 8: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $10-$30.

–Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Andrew Whituck.