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Roberta Baskett, a native of Roanoke, Virginia, grew up among seven siblings. Her father died after a long illness when she was only eleven years old. Six years later she lost her mother. Roberta credits her talent to her mother's innate ability to discern each of her children's gifts and interests and steer them in the direction of those gifts. One day she expressed to her mother that she would like to decorate a room in their home. Roberta's mother not only gave her permission, but she encouraged her, she trusted that Roberta could do it. It was at that point that Roberta realized how blessed she and her siblings were to have a mom who was supportive and sensitive to the gifts that endowed her children. Roberta believes that it was the sensitivity of her mother and her ability to see her potential gifts that planted the seed that would eventually grow and blossom into the artist she is today.
The scope and versatility of her creations has been in a number of art modes, such as women's hats, family games, wall paper, fabric design, greeting cards, poetry, musical compositions, interior design, and even as a drafts-person and engineer in the aerospace industry where she designed panels on the Apollo Space Craft, printed circuitry on the Minute Man Missile and exterior lighting on the B-1 Bomber. These experiences watered the seed that played a vital part in her destiny.
Having finished UCLA in Environmental Interior Design was the beginning of the sprout from the seed that had been nurtured. The many challenging projects would direct her in a path in which she had no idea she would take. It was at Hollywood Presbyterian Church where she was asked "what would you like to do in the church?" She responded, "I would like to make posters for the various projects the church would have need of." Her first request was to make a poster to attract children to Sunday school. She had taken a class in behavior science in which she was taught to cater to the five senses which is an essential part of good design. Roberta decided to make a poster that would communicate without words. She made a poster with lots of bright colors, action and texture, thus giving the message intended, bearing in mind that many children would not read words but would read the picture. As time passed, Roberta became more proficient at making posters.
When Roberta's niece became engaged to be married, not knowing what to give her, Roberta decided to make a poster depicting her niece in a garden with lots of trees and flowers. She had it framed and presented it to her for a wedding gift.
In November 1986, Roberta completed her first framed work; after which she continued to have all her pieces framed. In July 1987, Roberta began showing her work at venues. These venues included D. Genero Art Gallery in Santa Monica, The Westwood Art Show, Hollywood Presbyterian Church, The Courtyard Collection of Los Angeles, L.A. Municipal Art Gallery, Art Store of Pasadena, Black Heritage Art Center of Roanoke, VA, William Grant Steel Community Art Center, Arco Plaza, Channel 7 Home Show and even L.A. in the Spotlight. Roberta has twice been honored at West Los Angeles City College and at Smyrna Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles.
Although Roberta has also been included in publications such as the American Black Women in the Arts and Social Sciences by Dr. Ora Williams (1990's 3rd edition), Beverly Hills Library, the Links of Covina, CA, Bank of America, L.A. in the Spotlight, The Recorder Magazine, August 2012 Issue and Top Ladies of Distinction, L.A. CA, due to health issues, Roberta has done very little to promote her art in recent years.
The name "BASKART" became the signature of her art after being on Channel Seven Home Show in 1988 and with no name for her work, a staff member of Channel Seven suggested that she name it "BASKART" since her maiden name is Baskett. She decided to copyright it as BASKART.
In consideration of her work, Roberta decided to conduct her own search and to the best of her knowledge, no art like hers was to be found. Today, many people have now seen her work. In fact, Roberta indicated that at one time, two people sent her emails to show her their work, thinking that they were sending something similar to her own work, however, their work were done by laser. Roberta admitted she wouldn't mind learning the laser method, but all of her work in hand-crafted which entails hours upon hours of work and lots and lots of patience. Everyone who has ever had the privilege of seeing Roberta's work (and thousands have) have admitted to her that they have never seen work like hers.
Roberta uses whatever she can find in the paper world to get the effect that she wants (as long as it is acid free). By manipulating, crushing, cutting, curling, punching, etc., she is able to make her work look as life-like as humanly possible. There may be as many as four mediums and four or more types of paper in one piece of art. In creating BASKART, she never knows what she is going to do or how she is going to do it. She has to wait for it to emerge. For example, the Rooster (at the Smithsonian) was done with paper painted and cut very fine to portray real feathers. This is evident in some of her landscapes in which every leaf on the tree was cut and glued to the limb, each blade of grass, cut and glued, and even paper cut very fine to look life fur.
Roberta was urged by a friend to contact the Smithsonian some years ago. In 2011 she thought to herself, "what do I have to lose?" So, she did just that, but the first picture she sent was rejected. Someone conveyed to Roberta that sending a "photo" of her work did not do justice for the actual work itself. She then considered sending an actual piece from her artwork collection. Her friend was sure that Roberta would not be turned down if she sent the real thing, so she did just that. To Roberta's utter amazement, the Smithsonian contacted her and stated that they were interested in her work and that the director would be contacting her. Roberta's work in now at the Smithsonian.
Roberta broadened her education and innate abilities through formal education at St. Joseph's Academy of Fine Arts in Pittsburgh, PA. She specialized in newspaper illustration. Additionally, she attended UCLA School of Environmental Interior Design and the Art Center where she learned figure drawing. Roberta's talents expanded further to musical composition. Two of Roberta Baskett-Middleton's compositions "Forest Mating Time" and "The Second Great Advent" can be downloaded from www.cdbaby.com, where both the vocal and instrumental version of "The Second Great Advent," orchestrated by Fred Lamour of New York can be found.
In conclusion, Roberta Baskett Middleton, a proud Seventh-day Adventist Christian, shares that it was after she became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian that there was a sense of clarity and she was able to produce more and more art. In expressing just how much her art means to her she states, "I love doing BASKART; it is such a wonderful pastime in one's old age. I do not take credit for BASKART. I believe I am a conduit in which God is showing us patience, endurance and bringing into manifestation His love for our pleasure, further calming our spirits for a little while from an accelerating and stressful world in which we live. To those who may see my work, I hope it will bring joy and take away any stress you may have (for a little while anyway), and know that God can bring out your potential. He uses your hands but He does the work. I do not take credit, I just stay available, always waiting for Him to show me what is next and how to do it. If you like my work 'thank Him'."