Marshall Baer – The Legacy of an Artist

Sculpture by Marshall Baer.

Sculpture by Marshall Baer.

Marshall Baer, who knew by the age of six he was an artist, died at age 84 in December 2011. From April to July 2011, though his body was breaking down in many ways and his hands were often unsteady, he worked for a few hours each day at his home at Rainbow Lodge in Mt. Tremper on what turned out to be a remarkable series of drawings.

Consider this one from May 2011.

by MarshallBaer VRT

The forceful, converging beam of lines breaking through the inner frame of the picture and the sinuous dancing waves of black and white are mysteriously dramatic. The juxtaposition of these shapes, the sharp, linear force knifing through the waves to the lower corner of the inner frame, as well as the double border of contrasting colors framing all this  highly energized drama — ah, Marshall was still exploring, still surprising himself, still at work.

Knowing that Marshall was weakening and close to death when he made this drawing, one is tempted to understand the border-breaking, wave-piercing beam of energy as a disruptive force of death, breaking open an inner frame, crucifying a wavelike dance of life, converging and terminating at an inner bottom edge.

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But can this abstraction really be said to “mean” anything, even as sub-conscious, right brain self-expression?

Only this: that on a day in May 2011, at 84, Marshall Baer was sitting at his drawing table, paying focused attention to the energies surging within him, externalizing those energies with skills honed over the course of a lifetime.

He was surely pleased with the result. This was one of a series of drawings from that four month period to which he signed his name.  Each line and wave had emerged with flawless clarity, demonstrating that his lifelong sense of self was still intact.  He was still capable of exploring the ongoing evolution of his mind.

In July 2014, Marshall’s wife, Eve, invited one of their great- granddaughters to celebrate her birthday with an art lesson. Eve spent several hours drawing and painting with the child at the same table where Marshall was drawing.

After the young art student’s birthday session had ended, Marshall was deeply moved — perhaps by the love and skill of Eve’s teaching, perhaps by the beauty of what Lily had created, perhaps by a realization that it was now time for younger people to carry on the exploration of human creativity.

“I’m done with art now,” he said to Eve.  The sequence of drawings begun in April came to an end that day in July. And he stuck to his word.

When I visited with him after that and asked, as I always did, what he was working on now, he said, “I’m trying to live whatever time I have left with as much dignity as possible.”

Make no mistake though. To the end of his days, despite how terribly weak and sick he was, Marshall was proud and happy about his life as an artist, and about sharing his work with others, always one of his greatest joys.

His signature shape, a mandala of rounded, interpenetrating yin/yang, male/female forms, is sculptedhere (below) in soft, finely sanded balsa wood — an enduringly touching emblem of human love, and a genuinely totemic creation, inviting the caring touch of those who love it.

Marshall Baer’s last drawings, created three years ago between April and July 2011, are currently on display at the Rainbow Lodge Gallery in Mount Tremper, N.Y. Call 845 688-7761 or email evebaer@earthlink.net

Mark Seiden lives in Venice, Florida, where he writes a column for the Venice Gondolier Sun. He says, “Marshall Baer was a dear friend of mine.  When I visited his home in Mt. Tremper this July, his wife, Eve, also a dear friend, told me the story I’m sending you here.”

There are 2 comments

  1. Glenn Kreisberg

    Marshall, who was one of the funniest people I ever met, use to say he was the most famous unknown artist in the world….meaning more people didn’t know about him, than knew of the most famous artist.

  2. Margo Feiden

    Dear Mark (if I may),

    A Woodstockian friend has just sent your appreciation to me. For close to 20 years Marshall Baer and I were next-door neighbors on 10th Street in New York City. He was always a loving and a caring buddy. Marshall was an essential part of my feeling that Greenwich Village was indeed a village, after all.

    For all of our 20 years as friends and neighbors, I had the good fortune to spend many hours with Marshall as he created his Art.

    The year before Marshall died, he came back to Greenwich Village to see me. We spent the day together, a day that we knew would be our last visit. Marshall spoke to me about his wife and angel, Eve, about her son, Ian, about his daughter Andrea, his grand children and grandchildren—and with the greatest possible sparkle, Marshall spoke with me all day about his sculpture. Your article brings all of this back to me, impeccably.
    Thank you.
    Margo Feiden

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