“A good piece of art tells you that you are not alone.”
This comforting sentiment has stuck with multimedia artist Kristin Bauer since one of her professor’s said it several years ago while she was studying painting at Arizona State University. She went on to study art therapy in grad school. Though she is not currently practicing art therapy, she does acknowledge the therapeutic aspects of art in her work.
“My interest in studying art therapy definitely came from my own personal relationship to seeing how being creative or experiencing other people’s creative work is a way to find balance,” Bauer says.
Bauer’s latest endeavor to find balance is a series of text-based art installations dubbed Untitled Gestures. She recently created a text work on the main entry of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) and along a curved wall in the inside of the museum that evokes ideas of connection and community. The exterior reads, “And a shared longing connects us,” while the interior says, “across an ever shifting terrain.” The newly commissioned creation will be on view at the museum indefinitely. Other pieces from Untiled Gestures can be viewed on public storefronts throughout the Valley, including Practical Art, Desert Crafted and Hazel & Violet Letterpress.
The piece’s message conveys the collective uncertainty felt globally and aims to facilitate a feeling of connection during a time when physical closeness isn’t possible.
While SMoCA is currently closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, visitors can still view the exterior phrase, and they will be able to interact with the interior message when the museum reopens.
“People will see that when they walk into the museum with masks on, with new protocols and finding a different terrain that they’re connecting with each other on,” Bauer says,
Bauer enjoys working with language, whether it’s through poetry or looking at linguistics and how words communicate different meanings to different people.
“In this series, Bauer writes poetic phrases that touch on the separation that we’re all feeling through physical separation, but also suggest how we can find other forms of connection, new forms of unity, during these times,” says SMoCA’s assistant curator Lauren R. O’Connell.
O’Connell had done several pre-pandemic studio visits with Bauer in which they “had a nice exchange of ideas and thoughts about art, culture and writing,” according to O’Connell. Then came quarantine. Studio visits turned into Zoom meetings and the idea for an interactive outdoor installation came about.
“I’ve done a lot of text installations over the years, but this is certainly different,” Bauer says. “I think that there’s a lot of possibilities for interacting with the difficulties we’re all navigating creatively and providing a sense of solace.”
O’Connell says the piece speaks to the way art can connect to an array of audiences.
“One of the roles of contemporary art museums is to pose artworks in a way that creates a dialectic—or exchange of ideas—leading to new questions and conversations about being,” she explains. “Conversations are not just shaped by the artwork, but how they function in relation to living in this contemporary moment, it’s shaped by what’s happening around us every day.”