Dust in the Wind


Corrie Baldauf says her art is about “finding the things that make you feel alive.” For her, this feeling is evoked by patterns she sees everywhere — in nature, in the stories of a person’s life, in art. They run through all the work in Baldauf’s Documenting Circumstance.

In the spacious accommodations at the Crossroads’ new Unit 5 gallery, the show feels almost like a retrospective, though Baldauf is only 25. The smaller portion of the show displays Baldauf’s thesis work as a senior at the Kansas City Art Institute, from which she graduated this year; the greater part is dedicated to her more recent work with French dyes and silks as well as some of her pencil drawings.

As a senior at the Art Institute, Baldauf used French dyes and silk to create paintings with irregular shapes and warm colors. They were attempts at storytelling, but it’s not easy to interpret the narrative (without help from the curator or artist, anyway). Baldauf was proficient at executing this method of abstraction, but she has since moved away from the style.

Baldauf’s pencil drawings are dark spiral shapes formed by a series of small markings that look like a long series of minute X’s. Each drawing documents a different pattern. In “Cara’s Cake Pan and Kirsten’s Words,” Baldauf has left a blank space between the X’s for each time a friend in the room tried to start a conversation while Baldauf was drawing. “Recording the Radio in Layers” contains a blank space for each commercial break of an FM radio station. In “Anticipation,” she records the development of a relationship by forming a new spiral immediately after each encounter.

These works are technically impressive, but they’re not much livelier to look at than a set of technical diagrams.

Much more interesting are the seven paintings after which the show is named, the media of which harken back to her earlier student work. These later paintings were created through a tedious process involving silk, a gluelike substance called “resist” and French dyes of various colors. Wrinkles would form on the silk surface and particles of dust would settle within the valleys formed by the wrinkles; Baldauf used the resist to create borders around the largest collections of dust, then colored around the borders with the dyes. Every night, more dust would collect in different places, and every morning, Baldauf would apply a different color. Each painting took around two weeks to complete.

What’s interesting about these paintings is that, though they may look abstract, Baldauf isn’t creating abstractions out of ideas or concrete experiences. Rather, sensitive to the reality around her — even to specks of dust — she records and documents that reality as a scientist might, though with the greater liberties afforded by imagination. As she has literally recorded and embellished natural phenomena, her portrayal of life’s patterns has almost made her a realist.

In moving away from abstract storytelling to begin this search for the things that make her feel alive, Baldauf has revealed a talent for discovering intriguing mysteries in commonplace occurrences.

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