Untitled, Mindmap, 2012, Mixed Media on Paper, 42x 86 inches


Coils, Vietnam, 2004, C print, 30x30 inches


Untitled, Mind Map, 2012, Mixed Media on Paper, 36x 60 inches


Pyramid, C Print, Egypt, 2010


Untitled, Mindmap, 2012, Mixed Media on Paper, 42x 86 inches

In Topography of Quiet, mixed-media artist Bastienne Schmidt explores the subtle interaction between nature and imagination. Inspired by the beauty of natural patterns and typologies that she discovered on her extensive travels in Egypt, Vietnam, Japan, Burma and Greece, Schmidt traces the impact that our environment has on our imagination and vice versa.

Her color and black-and-white photographs of ocean tides and patterns in sand and water are juxtaposed with other landscape scenes in which some small gesture of human activity or intervention is apparent--a hose floating on water, a pyramid in silhouette, tire marks, agricultural demarcations, white lines on a soccer field. These photographs, taken in locations around the world, are further augmented with delicate, complex paintings and drawings that underscore the subtlety of Schmidt’s eye. As the book’s title indicates, an expansive serenity permeates these works, which gently pursue and embrace the co-existence of the natural and the man-made.

Intricate paintings and drawings inspired by Asian scroll drawings stand side by side with abstracted photographic compositions; together the images reveal the rhythms and patterns that shape the physical and psychological space around us. Schmidt combines the notion of traveling in real life and in her mind, searching and documenting divisions of space, markings and mappings as a reflection of a search for identity and place. Topography of Quiet is on view at Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York, through January 15, 2015.

Schmidt recalls, “I grew up in Germany and Greece and I remember being an acute observer of the world around me early on. It somehow seemed easier to express myself through visual tools than through spoken and written language. Sketching and drawing became my universal alphabet. I started to look through a camera for the first time when I was 12, it was a Kodak Instamatic. At 15,I had a French boyfriend with a Leica, and only then I understood how one can express a personal vision of hidden beauty in quiet observations of daily life: that photography can possess a transformative quality. I moved to college to Perugia, to study painting and photography. My work has always been intertwined with both mediums.

“In 1990 I moved to New York where I was lucky to find work as a documentary photographer for a variety of magazines. I lived and breathed photography. I was traveling to Latin America a lot, while I worked for five years on a documentary project about death rituals in Latin America. I drew at home, but it was somehow separated from my work as a photographer.

“In 2001, my husband who is also an artist and I we moved to Bridgehampton. The space and also the quiet around me brought me back to use both photography and painting with the same focus. I started working on a project on women, where I used colorful hand cut silhouettes, whereas in photography I started to photograph myself as a stand in for the everywoman. This project resulted in my book Home Stills, which was published in 2011.

“About six years ago, the cross observation of space through photography and painting took an even deeper turn with Topography of Quiet. I draw from different sources as an artist. I love Japanese wood cut prints, especially Hokusai and Hiroshige. What attracts me is the clarity in the composition and the color layout. One of my early inspiration was a map by Hokusai that was a seen out of a bird perspective. I also like the concept of a floating world ‘ukiyo’, which described the urban lifestyle, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects, of the Edo period (1600–1867) in Japan. I transformed the idea of a floating world into drawn and painted mind maps that have no anchor, perspective and borders.”

In the introduction to Topography of Quiet, Schmidt observes, "Space is a concept of the mind. I have no concern to make the space real, because I know that is a construction of an idea where I am faced with innumerous possibilities. A piece of paper is a space.”

As a visual artist, she is able to translate three dimensions into two, and cites a Sol Lewitt exhibition as a turning point in her understanding of the physicality of the two dimensional image. She observes, “What Sol Lewitt did was twofold. First was the idea of a space, a place. The drawing became the vehicle of an intervention into a physical space. The physical execution could be fabricated by whomever. There is the idea behind it that the drawing continues in time. On the other hand the beauty of a drawing sometimes is the personal trace. Everyone draws from a vocabulary that is unique, and I am drawn to noticing personal marks and pencil lines, because they feel like traces that we leave behind.”

It is by what we leave behind that we are known. For Bastienne Schmidt, that is her books. Upon the printed page she takes us on a trip, an adventure across a world that is at once foreign—and familiar. It is a landscape of understanding, a map of the mind when the senses are finely tuned to the spaces closest to silent. It is in Topography of Quiet that Schimdt uses the white page as the stage where we can slip away into a meditation of image after image of visual odes that remind us of the hidden beauty of the daily life to a transformative, if not spiritual, effect. It is at once as grand as it is humble.

Artwork by Bastienne Schmidt 
Curated by Miss Rosen 



Highway Topos, Mixed media on Paper, 28x54 inches


Golden Lake, Greece, C Print, 2013