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Reviews & Essays




“Tactile Allusions, Arcane Texts: Barbara Bachner at the Woodstock Artists Association” by Dakota Lane

Woodstock Times, Nov. 13, 1997

There is a rare pairing of precision and fluid, organic impulse in Barbara LaVerdiere Bachner’s work, now on exhibit in a solo show, Testaments and Veils, downstairs at the Woodstock Artists Association. Through her abstract paintings and assemblages of paper and various media, she articulates a strong inner vision. Bachner’s vision is often unspeakable and nameless, as she suggests in an opening statement. She says she manipulates materials not to search for something she knows, but for “what I do not know and cannot recognize, since it has not existed in that form before.”

Many of her compositions contain passages or sentence fragments from her personal journals. Virtually unreadable—with a few key words coming into focus as if floating to the top of an opaque pond—the words convey, through their visual form, a sense of original intent that transcends the vehicle of codified symbolism.

Bachner’s use of modeling paste, inks, paint and Asian paper create carved, tactile environments with a myriad of subtly shifting tones and textures. In both “I See A Tiger” and “R.I.P.,” long blocks of evenly scribed text seem carved against a surface with the tones and textures of an ancient tombstone, charred, mottled and faded with time. There is beauty and strange comfort in the indecipherability of the words.

Like an actor using only expression and movement to convey subtle worlds of emotion, Bachner uses words and letters as gesture, keeping the original intent behind the gesture intact even as the gesture becomes transformed into something beyond traditional meaning. In “Edict,” a monotype on paper, black ink runs down in loose columns in curled, delicate characters reminiscent of Arabic or Chinese. She offers the sense of ancient, vital document as art by paying homage to the essence of the concept. Subtext is everything in Bachner’s work, whether she’s employing words or archetypal, biological or spiritual symbols. Interplay between objects creates fine balances and tensions. Some of her sparest compositions seem to reveal natural laws of the universe.

There is an artlessness, a lack of strategy and self-consciousness to most of these pieces. Bachner’s intensity of concentration and lyric touch allows joyful spontaneity of form and color, within the framework of one or two ideas. “Dwarf seems like a celestial saga, complete with written story forming scroll-like down the side; “Ancestor” partially obscures faded text with form, creating a three-dimensional effect.

Each piece conveys the sense of an intense, ongoing story—eliciting an equally personal perception from each viewer. We get the sense of looking into something larger than personal reality; Bachner’s visions are sometimes at the cellular or stellar level, like things glimpsed through microscopes or telescopes. And yet the vision is never cool or objective, touched always with her presence.

— Dakota Lane

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