|Acquisition Number: 80.30
Print, serigraph on paper
17" x 25"
Credit: Gift of Mr. W.A. Harkleroad
In the late 1950s, Baeder studied Fine Arts at Auburn University. The real magic of those Auburn years was the trips back and forth, between semesters, from Atlanta to Alabama. It was during these drives that Baeder’s romance with the back roads of America stirred his love affair with diners. As a child Baeder had been nagged by a desperate urge to travel, and the reality that his father did not drive had left a void for which, during the Auburn years, he had found compensation. By the late ’60s, and many road trips later, Baeder began to expand his sights not only as a photographer but as a collector, centering on old postcards of roadside America – of the diners, gas stations, tourist camps, motels, restaurants, and the main streets of small towns that he discovered as he wound his way across the country.
Other Photorealist artists chose various aspects of popular eateries as subject matter for their paintings, but none with the same dedication and rigor as Baeder. It can be argued that Baeder single-handedly developed the diner image into an American icon. With tenacity and consistency, he made pilgrimage after pilgrimage to lovingly capture, first with his camera, then in paint, then prints, the images of hundreds of diners across the United States. As we look at Baeder’s images, we become aware that the diner images are a precious social record of a fast-disappearing American subculture.