When you enter Chris Bauder’s studio, the first wall you encounter is filled with wooden crates containing glazed, jewel-studded lips. Glass domes cover pastel-colored pronged objects, and a small closet is filled with colorful, knobby curiosities. Pudgy, pale blue ovoids on a workbench vacillate between pacifier and puzzling sex toy. The overall affect is monster movie creature shop mixed with titillating candy store. That potent mix of innocently sensual ambiguity is just what he’s going for.
“I’m attracted to certain ideas within society, like augmentation of the body for visual pleasure,” Bauder explains. “I don’t try to preach. I just want to make objects that look a certain way that provoke touch, or mastication, like you want to chew it, but then it kind of looks like a piece of scrotum … [laughs]. I like objects that seem like they could be for sexual use.”
His artistic process is similar to a Dairy Queen soft serve cone dipped in chocolate — and just as tasty-looking. A couple of shelves are filled with an assortment of glass objects, cups, bowls, beer steins, lids from candy jars, which he dips into common latex house paint. Several coats later, a curvy, brightly hued skin is ready to be removed, “like peeling a scab,” Bauder says. From those peelings, he creates his pieces. “Its really kind of uncontrollable, you just keep doing it.”
How did he come upon this provocative method?
“It was just luck,” he says. “I was buying a shit-ton of paint and painting on canvas, and got some on some on my ceramic objects. I originally started with ceramics. I would peel it off, like a Band-Aid. Then I started experimenting, dipping whatever I could find.”
He’s in full production mode when we visit, preparing for his solo exhibit, Lush, at Brett Wesley Gallery. Rows of newly dipped, fleshy dumplings, with curvy joysticks protruding, await further manipulations. Reams of pink latex sheets will soon be stretched onto long planks, invoking unsettling Silence of the Lambs memories. Despite a couple of larger older works that will be shown, the focus of the current exhibit is “smaller groups of things,” Bauder explains.
“I want to lean towards mechanical, like a button to push to ignite or destruct. The focus is individual components rather than the entire object; studies of multiple uses around an object, but I’ve left the use up to the imagination.”
LUSH by Chris Bauder, Aug. 2-Sept. 29, opening during Preview Thursday, Brett Wesely Gallery, 1112 S. Casino Center Blvd., www.brettwesleygallery.com