The Artist and the Natural World

In her early work and after her move to New York in 1962, Mary Bauermeister often worked with natural materials such as sand, stones, or honeycombs.  She had been interested since childhood in the mathematical principles behind natural processes. Her use of natural objects, as well as other chance finds, distinguishes her from her American contemporaries, such as Robert Rauschenberg, who tended to incorporate urban discards in their work.

Bauermeister’s “stone pictures” are an example of a chance find of natural objects.  Fascinated by the shapes and colors of flat stones she discovered on a beach in Sicily in 1963, she began collecting and experimenting with them, stacking the stones in “towers” of graduated sizes on panels.  The multi-part work Progressions (see illustration) is her first stone picture, sold in New York by the Galeria Bonino to the Museum of Modern Art. 

Likewise, Bauermeister’s lens boxes were initially invented to demonstrate nature’s beauty for the viewer.  The early lens boxes, with their constellations of shimmering lenses and prisms, spherical forms, and objects, in particular evoke associations with stars and planets.  



Image: Mary Bauermeister. German, born 1934. Progressions,1963. Pebbles and sand on plywood. 51 ¼ x 47 3/8 x 4 ¾ in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Matthew T. Mellon Foundation Fund, 1964. 254.1964. Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY.