Betsy Bauer's paintings focus on the physicality of painting and the energy involved in mark making. She is as much concerned with the application of paint as she is with removing paint and building up the layers into a rich patina. The paintings explore line, movement and depth of space within the canvas. Her inspiration comes from her travels, ancient calligraphic manuscripts, the natural world, especially the weather patterns and wonderful light in the landscape in Santa Fe, NM, where she has lived for the past three decades.
Bauer's paintings and prints are held in museum, corporate and private collections around the world. Since 1985, she has had numerous solo and group shows throughout the United States and Europe. Her art hangs in the U.S. Embassies in Sarajevo and La Paz, Bolivia and in many public collections, including the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC and the Johnson Art Museum at Cornell University in NY. Her works are in private and corporate collections throughout the US, including American Express, New York, NY; Fidelity Investments, Boston, MA; Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, CA and Scottsdale, AZ; General Electric, Fairfield, CT and Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center, New York, NY. The Santa Fe Opera has also featured her work on posters and notecards since 1999.
My new body of work emerged after much drawing, experimentation and painting during the last two years. After years of painting inspired by plants and the Italian landscape, I find that my paintings are again coming full circle to my love of paint as a material.
At the Philadelphia College of Art, I studied with Jane Piper, a student of Arthur B. Carles, who was a Colorist painter and a student of Matisse. We would ride around the city on our bicycles, looking at the bark of trees as she pointed out their colors—rich purples, lime greens and multiple shades of rose. I would vividly mark my paper with colors in oil pastel, and tease out the tree.
Years later, in a wonderful class at the Santa Fe Art Institute, I was inspired by painter Elizabeth Murray's words, “Let the paint create the form. It's all you have.” Her use of paint and its qualities forever solidified in me a passion for paint as a material.
In the past two years, I've been experimenting with watercolor on paper and diving back into the physical qualities of paint and the celebration of color, line, form and layering. I am focusing on the paint itself combined with the physical energy involved in applying paint. I love following the discoveries from experimenting with paint application, water and new ways of mark making. With the new abstract paintings, my color palette has also evolved from purer colors to more muted and a narrower palette.
I continue to be inspired by the the world of plants, color in my environment, weather patterns and the movement I see in nature. My new paintings are emerging from a deep place of joy, gratitude for life and living amid the wonderful light and color of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Santa Fe, New Mexico 2016
Q & A WITH THE ARTIST
How is your new work a departure from what you'd been painting before?
My new paintings are really about joy, and they capture my exuberance bubbling out when I paint. I've long been fascinated by ancient manuscripts, plants and Italy, and the fragments of ruins you see there with new grass growing in and around them. These new works continue that interest, as I employ ideas I've learned from the printmaking process —putting down layers upon layers, then wiping them out so the layers beneath show through. It's what has always compelled me as an artist—that sense of the ancient, of layers and layers of history and of time and mark making in my work. That's still present in my work, but now I'm recording it in a different way.
What inspired this new series of abstract paintings?
After going from full-time painter to painting whenever I could while raising two daughters and working as a full time interior designer, I went back into my studio to paint small, detailed watercolors. I realized that painting, for me, had become all about color and looseness, instead of the tight, detailed plants I used to paint. And I thought, the art I've always looked at and loved the most was abstract. I realized that I didn't have to represent anything, I could just go with the paint! These new works are paintings about paint. Also, I love to show the physical energy that goes into painting and exploration of line and space.
Where do the ideas for your work come from?
I'm always looking for ways to paint that surprise me, and to create problems that I then have to solve. I like to let the rawness and the surprises show through. There's a tension between trying to create a harmony with the color and the line and then really busting that up as well. So I feel that I'm creating a problem and solving it, but letting the problem show through. I love the mystery of painting—making areas disappear and then come back in. I love surprises in my studio, like seeing a piece of a painting through the glass of water I'm drinking and starting a new painting from that inspiration. I learned early on to start with your own passions, and now, my passion is for layering and discovering color, expressive line and abstract form.