Gretl Bauer
Contradictory possibilities are a sign of life.
— John Updike

The work is both a struggle and a sanctuary.

Much of the impetus for the work is located within my past — the landscapes which surrounded me as a child and the subsequent years as a dancer. Early in life I learned of the freedom that comes of order and the power inherent in repetition: the beauty in the repeated grid of plowed furrow, orchard, vineyard; the dancer developing through the cumulative effect of repeated exercise...

Essentially the work is about light and stillness. My fields of drawn and threaded lines are a means to distill light. At times, a dark light. I think of the “Dark Meadow” of Martha Graham and the quiet, sacred art of Southeast Asia, suggesting movement and possibility within great silence. The stillness of my own work transmutes into movement with the passage of light over the threads, the casting of shadows, the shifting of perception as one walks past.

The shards of wood, metal, or stone that I interweave with the threads are found by chance. It is important that I do not alter them, as they have their own strange poetry — telling of damage and recovery, fragility and redemption, passage through time, endurance. In their rawness — as in the newsprint which I crumple, pierce, and fold — is impacted a random and evocative history of use, abandonment, and loss.

Because there are sometimes unexpected disparities in materials that I love, I try to knit a kind of lyricism and wholeness from duality. Much like the classical ballet I once danced, the most persistent challenge is to capture the evanescent and make it enduring.

One needs serenity and one needs risk. Perhaps simplicity is the greatest risk. For this reason the primitive seduces me. I borrow its simple elegance, its sense of ceremonial austerity and its loneliness, striving to redefine it for the present day. In the uneasy moments of this new century the primitive asks that we not forget the primal sources which inspired man to create in the first place; that we continue to be in awe; that we still see the remembered light of childhood.

As artists we must provide hope that, in a complex universe, order is also a possibility — even if only visual, even if only for a moment. And we must surprise. Artists, like everyone, live surrounded by the chaotic, the perilous, the transient. When I question what our task should be I recall a remark once made by Francis Bacon that the job of the artist is “always to deepen the mystery.” The basic enigmas never leave us. Each work becomes a step in a subtle but rigorous journey, a reaching towards that still point behind the world’s opacity where, through some unknowable force, we are mysteriously nourished and sustained.