As a young boy growing up in rural Minnesota, the environment played a vital role in Ben Bauer’s upbringing. Weekends in the countryside and treks through the local woods, river valleys, and wetlands bred a deep admiration and understanding for Mother Nature. Now a well-established painter, it is evident how the landscapes and changing of seasons in the Mid-West were so influential to him. It is typical to see similar scenes in his artwork; nature in full bloom with burning skies and green pastures, or barren snow-frosted hills set beneath dark starry skies.
Recently, Bauer has spent more time reflecting on his style and making bold choices to incorporate elements often left out of traditional landscape paintings, most notably the presence of human life. In this explorative transition, he began including traces of human existence in the likes of tire tracks on a dirt road or a bonfire in the distance. His most recent composition takes a less subtle approach, as he places a large figure prominently in the foreground.
In this work, Sömngångare, a cloaked woman, stands front and center, walking away from the viewer. Sömngångare, a Swedish term that best translates to Sleepwalker, suits the painting well at first glance. That said, Bauer’s intention when painting the mysterious figure was not to evoke a “horror flick feeling,” but to be a “gestural element” in a story… in fact, he leaves it up to the viewer to create their own story and conclusion with respect to the narrative of the work. By leaving this more open-ended, Bauer allows the viewer to find a more personal connection. Perhaps the woman is quite content, maybe even receiving a spark of creativity late in the evening, possibly on her way to paint, write or make music in her newly renovated barn.
Sömngångare, a painting Bauer would describe as fearless, is just that… as he expands his horizons from the traditional Tonalist landscapes to works that spark emotions through storytelling, this work serves as the beginning of a new series in Bauer’s oeuvre.
We would love to know how this work of art makes you feel. If you would like to share your thoughts or personal narrative of the work, please send it to [email protected].
Oil on linen
24 x 26 inches