Bauman Article

Stephen Bauman, FAA graduate and Principal Instructor at the FAA branch in Mölndal, is on the cover of Fine Art Connoisseur's January/February issue. His painting is entitled, When I was Young.
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  T    TODAY ’ S   MASTERS ™ 68 | November/December 2014 I    f you wrote a screenplay tracing the life path of Stephen Bauman (b. 1980), no one would believe it: A Miami graffiti artist learns the tenets of classical realist painting in Florence, then moves to Sweden to share them  with others. Yet that’s just how it happened, and the artworks emanating from his unique  journey are well worth admiring. Born in Memphis, Bauman moved to Miami with his family when he was young. He followed his older brother into the world of graffiti, which was infused with the spirit of punk rock and early rap music. Decorating large walls and other surfaces introduced Bau-man to the basics of design and drawing, and it’s revealing that, even then, he incorporated such figurative elements as faces and bodies into his creations.Everything changed when Bauman arrived in Italy to attend the Florence Acad-emy of Art, the large atelier founded in 1991  by the American artist Daniel Graves. Here the  young man acquired even stronger drawing skills while excelling at the academic curricu-lum, which inculcated in him a deep appre-ciation for the harmony and beauty of nature,  whether it takes the form of figures, landscape, or the objects in a still life.Upon graduating in 2007, Bauman began teaching at the academy, but he experienced a crisis of direction until the following year,  when he met fellow artist Cornelia Hernes. They quickly fell in love and married, giving Bauman what he calls the “self-confidence” to hear and pursue his own artistic voice. Today  both are instructors at the Florence Academy’s successful outpost in Mölndal, Sweden.BLENDING OLD AND NEWBauman now makes work that he consid-ers a conflation of his Florentine training and his graffiti heritage. Though these impulses may seem contradictory, he emphasizes how much they have in common, compar-ing — for example — graffiti’s linear gestures and rhythmic shapes with the human body’s contours and forms. Today Bauman works in Stephen Bauman’s Journey through Life & Art  BY MAX GILLIES GH Other Voices 2014, Graphite on paper, 29 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. Collection of the artist | November/December 2014   69  Alone Together 2012, Oil on panel, 16 x 20 in. Private collection When I Was Young 2014, Oil on canvas, 60 x 45 in. Art Renewal Center CollectionWinner of the  Fine Art Connoisseur   Award (and also First Place, Imaginative Realism Category), 2013/14 ARC International Salon Competition  70 | November/December 2014  various genres — portraiture, still life, land-scapes, interiors — almost always juxtaposing natural forms with “unnatural,” imagined, or otherworldly elements that often function as symbols. (These may be literal, such as the skull hovering near the top of Other Voices ,  or implied, such as sudden value changes unre-lated to the scene he has actually observed.) Bauman’s overall objective is to unite what he calls “representation and magic, or, if you pre-fer, sight and feeling” into images that honor the significance of both. More broadly, his scenes are intended to convey how it feels to be alive — itself a magical experience — and to underscore the interconnectivity of all human beings.When he sets to work, Bauman always has a plan in mind, but then, he explains, the image unfolds through free association. He thoroughly enjoys such unpredictability, even  when the result does not resemble his intention at all. Though he usually works in oil, charcoal, and graphite, he likes to experiment with other media, aware that each material offers some-thing unique. This year’s   Other Voices , for example, marked Bauman’s   first experience working with powdered graphite, which he mixed with water and applied with a brush. He loved the novelty of fusing painting with drawing, though the picture’s imagery is classic Bauman: note the immediacy of the facial expressions and the eloquence of the hands’ positioning. Though  we cannot fathom exactly how the central figure interrelates with the hovering faces and skull,  we do know that something mystical is afoot.Ostensibly a portrait,    Alone Together    is actually a reverie on the sitter’s past and pre-sent. The extreme palpability of his likeness contrasts strikingly with the ghost-like echo of his face floating at far right, and with Bauman’s decision not to finish the figure below the waist. Moreover, the sitter is set against an abstracted, almost metallic, background that features geo-metrical designs (including a halo-like circle) that drive attention to his haunted eyes. More uplifting is When I Was Young  , in  which a girl’s halo and glowing finger connote Bauman’s belief that, for the young, anything is — or at least should be — possible. He is particularly interested in painting flickering lights like this, associating them with the life force that burns inside each of us, whether or not we choose to reveal it.We look forward to seeing what direc-tion Bauman pursues next. In the meantime, more of his work can be seen at Haynes Gal-leries (Nashville, Tennessee, and Thomaston, Maine), Hersh Fine Art (Glen Cove, New York), and Jack Meier Gallery (Houston). n MAX GILLIES  is a contributing writer to F  ine Art Connoisseur. Vessels and a Coin 2012, Oil on linen, 16 x 12 in. Private collection Portrait of the Artist Joakim Ericsson  2011, Charcoal and pencil on paper, 15 x 11 in. Private collection
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