Themes and Motifs

Bauermeister’s work incorporates themes having to do with nature—for example, her use of water-smoothed stones—and the cosmos, reflected in the glittering constellations of her lens boxes.  In the last years of her stay in New York, she addressed political topics and issues, as well.  But a major theme central to her work is the artistic process itself, involving the artist, her working methods, and her tools.

Bauermeister often pictures the artist’s hand, holding a writing or drawing implement, poised to begin or in the process of mark making.  Three-dimensional sculptures of pencils in all sizes are incorporated in many of the works, projecting outward like spines or enclosed within a lens box.  References to art are scattered as text fragments inside the boxes or flowing in her calligraphic drawing style across their outer surfaces.

Bauermeister also includes self-portraits of herself in the lens boxes, either working or peering through a magnifying glass, for example in the two lens boxes entitled Pictionary in the exhibition. 


Image: Mary Bauermeister.  German, born 1934. Pictionary (detail), 1966. Painted wood, glass, optical lenses, and plastic. 21 1/4 x 39 1/2 x 9 1/8 in. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Gift, Tom and Remi Messer, 1984. 84.3144.