In this day and age of tired remakes it is refreshing to see an artist break away from a tested and proven skill set. The latest exhibition of Madison painter Chuck Bauer is a bold departure from his established body of work. Chuck has for years been a regular presence in the community of plein air painters in and around Madison, WI. His work in plein air is fresh and lively in the way that only an accomplished painter can approach the act of direct painting.
Chuck’s work now on display at the Madison Senior Center at 330 W Mifflin St. (near Overture and the Central Library) is a new exploration of neon colors coupled with strong value contrasts and mysterious iconography. The symmetrical compositions seem like a rebellion against the asymmetrical landscape of a plein air painter. The imagery of these works evokes an exploration of the inner world of an artist. They range from visual conversations with the world of art to childhood imaginings of the life of a romantic cowboy.
When the business of art eclipses creativity all efforts converge on creating a consistently recognizable body of work. Such a strategy can lead to marketing success, but leaves much growth and potential untapped. The balance that feeds the artist’s soul and also puts food on the table is a unsolved zen koan on a par with “what is the sound of one hand clapping.”