1. Emanuel Leutze’s painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851) depicts an iconic scene from one of the pivotal battles in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). When did you first encounter this painting, what does it mean to you, and how did it come to inspire your new series of work?
“Man sieht nur das, was man weiss.” - ”You only see what you know.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).
At an early age I used to hang out with my grandfather, “Opa Alois Baumhauer”. Grandpa was an artist and a jewelry designer who loved to draw. When you would spend time with him, he would always take out his treasures and would tell you stories he loved best. We would savor his art books, we would paint and draw together, and Grandpa would tell me about ‘Der Ring des Niebelungen’ (Richard Wagner’s Opera Cycle), which scared me at times - and his favorite artists like Adolf von Menzel ( 1815-1905), or Emanuel Leutze, a Schwaebisch Gmuend born artist (1816 - 1868).
“He lived both: in America and in Germany,” at that time I had no clue what Opa meant. “You could find his huge paintings in Washington”, he used to say. I was not so sure whether to believe this or not, but I could tell my Grandpa wanted to emphasize that he really appreciated this guy….
In 8th Grade I found Emanuel Leutze’s painting ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’ (1851) in my history book at school and recognized the painting as being of one of Opa’s favorite artists right away!
During my scholarship year at Boston University (1986/87) I took the opportunity to visit New York City with its exciting sites, museums, galleries and artist’s hang outs. It is there that I suddenly got hooked on “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”
This painting both provided many answers and evoked even more questions! And yes, I felt strangely connected not only because Emanuel Leutze and I shared the same hometown, but also because this painting connected my childhood memories with my young adult life abroad.
I suddenly understood: This painting was not only a celebration of the liberty of a young nation but also provided hope and courage in the ‘Old World’ despite the failed German revolution of 1848!
I really liked this sophisticated bilateral, yes even global idea!
By painting the “ Open Letter, Little Miss Liberty Crossing the Delaware” series, the bridge was built to remind every single viewer of Leutze’s message and at the same time leading to our situation today.
“We live in a world where information can be shared worldwide within seconds.” My Open-Letter-Topic reminds the viewer of our global situation through every painting of mine since 1993/94. How could one possibly believe that a wall could make sense if we all sit in the same global boat? Since 9/11 we came to understand that Miss Liberty is still strong and determined but vulnerable. As I realized that Emanuel Leutze’s anniversary and the election year came together in 2016 I decided to start the “Open Letter, Little Miss Liberty Crossing the Delaware” Series in 2014.
2. Both you and Emanuel Leutze were born in Schwaebisch Gmuend and moved to the U.S. Are there other biographical similarities between the two of you that might have influenced your new series?
Not only did both of us live during a critical young age abroad, but also did we both use this opportunity to study the familiar through the unknown.
3. Could you elaborate on the title of the exhibition. “Little Miss Liberty Crossing the Delaware”?
When crossing (…) we are leaving the familiar behind. We expose ourselves to the unknown. We risk everything - we also risk failure. We do this anyway since this is the only way to reach new frontiers. Children are the most creative people. They are not afraid to leave the familiar behind. They are not afraid to fail. They playfully enjoy what they do. They are Little Miss Liberty’s best friends.
4. Your work includes a wide range of techniques, materials and mediums often combining painting, printmaking, drawing and even embroidery in a single piece. How did you develop this approach, and when do you know when each piece is “finished”?
I learned from my best friends how to handle things that are most important to me. Playfulness is key in all my endeavors. It enables me to cross lines. I play only by my own rules. Wonder and curiosity are important ingredients. When harmony strikes, I’m happy and the piece is complete.
5. You spend your life between Schwaebisch Gmuend and New York - two places that are at opposite ends of a spectrum. How do these two places influence your artistic process? Is there work you can only imagine doing in Schwaebisch Gmuend versus New York or vice versa? Why?
I share a larger studio space in Schwaebisch Gmuend than I can use in New York City. Therefore I can work on different pieces at the same time in Schwaebisch Gmuend. I even have the means to accomplish objects there.
“My brain works the same way here or there.”
But you can find a ‘tougher playfulness’ in the city that never sleeps. It is here that I come up with the most potential ideas. I can plan my work and then go to where I find the right conditions to accomplish it.
6. Where do you draw inspiration from? Which other artists have influenced you?
Inspirations lie in the smallest things: A sound, a smell, a sentence, a smile … anything can spark imagination. My work is very personal. I talk only about things I have made my own through observations, experiences, dreams …
The ‘Bauhaus-idea’ is important to me.
As a young student abroad I was struck by the freshness and energy of the Abstract Expressionism that put NYC at the center of the Western Art World.
These artists made warehouses in SOHO their studios and worked with brooms as brushes …I was fascinated and loved the work by Willem de Kooning and especially Franz Kline, but realized early on, that I had to leave all this behind to find myself.
7. For your solo show at the Musseum im Prediger, you also designed a jewelry line, inspired by Emanuel Leutze. How was it working in this new medium,and how did you go about creating these designs? Are there other media which you would like to pursue in the future?
Creating things always ‘works’ the same way for me: You have an idea, and to express it you have to find the material that shows best what you want to say. Work on paper is the heart of all my projects. Drawing is thinking. The best craftspeople helped to find excellence in this new field.