By Molly Priddy, 4-27-12
||Caption: Frank Bauer's painting "revisited."
LAKESIDE – Looking at one of Frank Bauer’s paintings is an interactive affair. Initially, a viewer sees color and possibly a portrait, but getting closer, it becomes evident there is more happening. Even closer, and there’s a sudden realization that the entire canvas is covered in thousands of painted lines the width of angel hair pasta.
And, after staring at the painting for a few minutes, a viewer might just realize his or her nose is nearly pressed to the canvas, examining the intricacies of color and light.
Bauer, a painter and sculptor based in Lakeside, likes to hear what viewers think they are looking at, especially when it comes to his abstract pieces. Some may see a sunrise, where others see sound waves.
“I love that aspect about the abstracts,” he said, standing next to his kiln and looking at a freshly fired batch of ceramic pieces. “I always hope that my pieces work on more than one level.”
Several of Bauer’s paintings are currently on display at Ceres Bakery in Kalispell, and he also has some pieces at Mi Casa in Whitefish. While he may be stationed in the valley, Bauer’s interests and projects often take him out of the state and the country.
Originally from Wisconsin, Bauer has been living in Lakeside with family on and off for the past two years. Before that, he was in Los Angeles, working on a massive wall mural made of ceramic pieces.
However, when the economy tanked, so did the funding for that project, Bauer said. Right before he left California, he met the woman who would become his wife, Jenny Lama. This also proved to be a challenge, because Lama lives in Chile. Bauer recently returned from a lengthy trip to visit her, and she plans on moving here in June.
Her presence is large in his studio, though. Bauer is in the midst of a portrait of Jenny, which started with a painting of her face and a solid-colored background. Then come the lines, which he adds individually with a tiny paintbrush.
It’s a time-consuming process, Bauer said, and he likens it to pointillism, where painters place two differently colored dots close together to form a third color, and eventually expanding it to a whole painting.
A simple line speaks volumes to Bauer.
“For me, a line can be so expressive,” he said.
His sculpted pieces go through a similar process as his paintings. They are often mosaic-style, with colorful, handmade ceramic pieces arranged in a design and grouted together.
Artist Frank Bauer in his Lakeside studio.
Since Bauer has been in Montana, the California project has been restarted, and two benches were also added to the order. The wall mural alone is 36 feet by 17 feet, and he’ll need about 500 square feet of tile.
That’s a tall order, considering most of the ceramic pieces he fires are about an inch by an inch. Bauer said he was pleased with his latest batch, still warm after being fired at 2,200 degrees in his kiln. The glaze turned out well, he said, showing a piece with a rust-red hue and darkened edges.
Since rolling out the clay, cutting it into pieces, letting it dry, glazing it and firing it takes so long, there’s not a lot of room for experimentation. But Bauer is already putting together a collection for the Whitefish summer art festival, Huckleberry Days, which includes several pots and plant holders.
Bauer’s previous work includes fountains, benches, stove backsplashes in kitchens, showers and more. His ceramic designs are often inspired by his European background; both of his parents are Hungarian immigrants, and a lot of Bauer’s family still lives across the ocean.
One of his primary inspirations is the famous Spanish sculptor and architect, Antoni Gaudi, as well as Gustav Klimt.
Living in Lakeside has also provided inspiration for the artist, who said the people here are great and the landscape is influencing his work as well.
“It’s impossible not to be awed by the beauty of your surroundings in Montana,” Bauer said.
For more information on Frank Bauer, visit www.bauerkraft.com
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