Tempe Artist Kristin Bauer on Finding Inspiration in the Present Moment

Meet artist Kristin Bauer.
Meet artist Kristin Bauer.
Courtesy of Kristin Bauer

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 36. Kristin Bauer.

Kristin Bauer uses her words. They're the most recognizable part of her visual art practice.

The 34-year-old Minneapolis-born, Tempe-based artist uses plastic products to create sculptural objects and installations that explore human constructs. Which is to say, the pieces, with their all-caps phrases, commands, and sentence fragments, explore how viewers respond to, derive meaning from, and create stories surrounding "composed visual and written information amidst the poetry of movement."

The works are graphic and eye-catching, whether painted on the side of a building, as is her Meet Me in the Middle mural on which she collaborated with her husband, Emmett Potter, or adhered to a concrete floor, like her pink vinyl You Had Me At Hello text for the 2015 "Equal Parts" exhibition at Frontal Lobe Gallery, now known as Chartreuse.

Bauer is inspired by the human psyche. It's how these presented words are interpreted, what they suggest, that interests her. When creating her cubic sculptures, multi-panel paintings, and text-based installations, the Tempe-based artist brings together her background in cognitive studies, psychology, poetry, and writing, and a fascination with linguistics, meditation, physics, and space-time.

In one work, two layered lightweight bending plastic stencils, one white and the other black, drape from a high window that shadow and communicate, through cut-out letters, "Your Rising Feels Like My Falling." Stacked cubic sculptures suggest "Now" on one panel and "Then" on its opposite, at once an analog Magic 8 Ball and a demand to reflect.

Bauer with her piece that reads, "Your Rising Feels Like My Falling."EXPAND
Bauer with her piece that reads, "Your Rising Feels Like My Falling."
Howard Romero

"Perception itself is a human construct I attempt to mold and expand, in my desire to open consciousness, increase dimensionality, and reimagine the mundane, whether it be a window, three monosyllabic words, or a simple arc," she says. "The viewer’s experience of my work is an integral part of the content, as their participation engaging with and moving around it activates the conceptual kinetics that are otherwise still." 

Among her most notable accomplishments are inclusion in the 2015-16 "IV Border Biennial" at both the El Paso Museum of Art and the Ciudad Juarez Museo de Arte, presenting work at art fairs including Scope Miami during Art Basel and in New York during Armory Week, and exhibiting with Aureus Contemporary.

"Bringing my work to new places is very important to me," she says.

Soon, fans will have new works to take in. Bauer's hard at work on new sculptures that incorporate text on plexiglass and wood, preparing for a January 2017 solo exhibition at LA's Jai&Jai Gallery, and working toward a more experimental solo show that will open at Melbourne, Australia's Nicholas Projects next March. And, at present, she has work up in a group show at Cheryl Hazan gallery in New York's Tribeca neighborhood. 

In short, Bauer is doing exactly what she always knew she would: dedicating her life to art, something her life has revolved around since the first time she painted on canvas at age 14. 

"It is the only thing that I have never lost interest in, and the sacrifices or struggles of being an artist have always been outweighed by the great satisfaction and purpose I feel in it," Bauer says. "While it is work, and sometimes very hard, solitary, and incredibly anticlimactic, it is a love affair, a calling, a life philosophy I will always be in tune with."

Work from Bauer's Clarity series includes cubic sculptures andEXPAND
Work from Bauer's Clarity series includes cubic sculptures and

I came to Phoenix with my family and our dog, driving across the U.S. in a minivan when I was 12

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I make art because quite frankly, I must. On a personal level, being present in my studio, in the act of making, in the search for new boundaries to push in my work, and in contemplation of philosophical and aesthetic concerns keeps me grounded and balanced. Making art is so interwoven into the fabric of my being that when I have been forced to be away from my studio work for lengths of time, I have felt a separation of self.

I'm most productive when I have expanses of time to immerse myself in the creative process, have great music playing, and I am working on multiple pieces/projects at once — and also when I have a deadline chasing me.

I don’t have an inspiration wall, but my bookshelves would be a good stand-in. Lots of art books, artist monographs, poetry books, philosophy, Buddhist literature — things like that.

I've learned most from observation and listening, even (and especially) in silent mundane moments. Life is a long moving composition with many overlapping rhythms and melodies, and I don’t think I could articulate a singular note that is more substantial.

In other words: the present moment, whatever it holds.

Good work should always create a moment for pause, present a platform for new perspective, offer layers of engagement, and reveal itself slowly over time. Good work should change with you as you evolve in life, possess the inter-dimensionality and the simplicity to always ring true no matter where it is in timespace and with whom it is interacting with. Good work should be made for the artist and the whole world, simultaneously.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more audacity and less permission.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez


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