The Physicality of Feelings: Interview with Stephen Bauman, Sweden
“Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.”
― George Carlin
“She’s a woman, you’re a dude. You’re not supposed to understand her. That’s not what she’s after…. She doesn’t want you to understand her. She knows that’s impossible. She just wants you to understand yourself. Everything else is negotiable.”
― Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
INTERVIEW WITH CLASSICAL REALIST PAINTER, STEPHEN BAUMAN
~ Mölndal, Sweden
Deanna Piowaty: Stephen, not all painters are able to capture the complex inner emotional life of men as well as they paint women, but you do this quite successfully and powerfully. What enables you to feel and communicate what so many others cannot?
Stephen Bauman: If there is anything that I have added to the observation of men it comes from thinking that they are no different from women. Strip away all of the stuff of life, put us into sensory deprivation tanks and I think that there is the same fragile flickering human spirit that makes us do all of the things that we do. I see the same needs and wants in both men and women.
Stephen Bauman: On this level I see us as the same. You can see this in the painting, When I Was Young. It is a painting of a young girl and her glowing finger. This painting is about the feeling of potential associated with youth. It is not by accident that the title and the image contain the obvious contradiction that it has. I am a man and the picture shows a young girl. How is this a picture of when I was young? The feeling is the same for each of us, the potential is the same.
Deanna Piowaty: You’ve said that your wife, classical realist painter, Cornelia Hernes, is your favorite subject to paint. Can you elaborate? Have you ever captured an aspect of her that startled you both?
Stephen Bauman: I think that my paintings of Cornelia are my way of spending more time with the woman that I love. In a world filled with any number of subjects that could be painted, I find that there is nothing that makes me feel as much as painting her. Like anyone who does what they love, I think that my love for her shows through in these paintings.
Stephen Bauman: With all of my work, I aim to make a statement about the importance of emotional experience. Think about a life without emotion: it’s like dehydrated space food. The empty crunch of a substance made to just keep you alive. Granted, I’ve never eaten space food but this is my dystopian vision of it. By making paintings which are naturalistic and at the same time contain something unnatural (external lights, unmotivated value changes)
Like Lotus Leaves is a painting of Cornelia that takes this shape. Sitting across from my wife, this is how she looks. With the addition of these glowing lights at the periphery of the image I am saying that when I look at her, there is something extra. In my eyes, in my vision, there is something magic about her. There is a swelling of emotion that I feel which reflects all of our experiences together. In six years together we have seen and done so much.
Deanna Piowaty: I’ve always been intrigued by the term “realist.” As it applies to painting, what are the parameters an artist must work within? Where is the line between what the artist perceives and what “is”? What is truth in painting?
Stephen Bauman: In painting we rely on personal truths. Think of someone who is a very positive person, an optimist. Their life and their actions are a reflection of this positivity. My paintings and drawings are the same, they reflect the way I feel about life. Being alive is a rich experience. There is a musician named Jonathan Richman whom this reminds me of. He is an undiluted fountainhead of human experience. In songs like Affection, Hospital, and Girlfriend, he is pouring out his feelings of desire and need for warmth, totally unaffected. There is such intense bravery in that action that people connect and see themselves in his lyrics.
Stephen Bauman: This happens because all of our diverse expressions come from some of the same needs. For me this is my greatest ambition as an artist, and when it happens, gives me the deepest gratification.
Deanna Piowaty: You were born in the U.S, in Miami, Florida, but now reside in Mölndal, Sweden. What brought you to Sweden? What has captivated you most about that beautiful country?
Stephen Bauman: Sweden is a great place to live. We came to Sweden by way of a transfer from teaching at the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, to the branch in Mölndal where we currently teach. Also to be closer to Cornelia’s family in Norway.
The best things I can refer to about Sweden are the other artists I have been able to work with at the academy here: Andreas Birath…
Stephen Bauman: Amelia Meredith…
Stephen Bauman: Marie Blom…
Stephen Bauman: Joakim Ericsson…
Stephen Bauman: And, last but not least, my wife Cornelia Hernes.
Stephen Bauman: These are the people whom I spend my life with. For me, there is not a more important quality that I look for in a place to live than whom I spend my time with.