Detroit Trees, Belle Isle, 2004
oil, latex, staples on paper
15.2 × 23.2 cm
oil, latex, adhesive tape, marker, varnish on paper
41.3 × 61.3 cm
[from the pressrelease]
Cay Bahnmiller (b. 1955; d. 2007, Detroit, USA) was born in Wayne, Michigan. After spending part of her childhood in Argentina and Germany, Bahnmiller lived and worked in Detroit until her death.
Bahnmiller’s art is marked by accumulation: of paint, found objects, texts, memories and even of time. Layered and sedimented, Bahnmiller collapsed temporality, allowing her work to reflect the profusion of experience – in all its facets – that can only be accumulated through life lived. She worked fluidly across mediums. Making no distinction between surfaces, she built compositions on street signs, books, pages torn from magazines and auction catalogs, found pieces of wood and toys. This openness was offset by her rigorous examination of her approach and subject matter. There is a clarity and intensity of vision that reveals how purposefully and carefully Bahnmiller crafted her dense work. She related occurrence through both abstract language and exacting detail.
Making the evolving and eroding landscape of Detroit a crucial focus of her work, she connected her own existence with the conditions of the city. Beyond this, her work would ultimately touch a vast range of themes, from poetry, literature and art history, to class and social stratification, politics, trauma, and death. After being violently assaulted in 1993, Bahnmiller’s work became more insular, and her lifelong preoccupation with urban space was accented by a more conflicted relationship between public and private. Her own memory was a key element in her working method. Often calling back to her time abroad, she allowed her childhood experiences to commingle with the literature she favored and her everyday life in the city. “My perception in painting is enhanced by executing this work in the archeological ruin of Detroit,” she wrote, “a city steeped in sedimentation of light… The stark absence of an ‘outer’ world necessitates the imaging of an interior.” Bahnmiller collected cast-off bits of her city – allowing them to convey the character of the place and play roles in her own narratives – building up sculptures that are almost camouflaged.
oil, latex, marker, adhesive tape, varnish on magazine page
30.2 × 23.8 cm