WE ARE BECOMING — STELLA MARIA BAER

Who doesn't see the moon and feel the achingly beautiful pull of something mysteriously greater than ourselves? As if we each contain a tide of possibility, an ebb and flow and interconnectivity to things greater and grander than ourselves, a lunacy of potential, simply waiting to be pulled into being by inspiration or the electricity of creation.


In all acts of radical creation, this same powerful and mysterious gravity exists—the tug we feel between ourselves and the moon is the same as the gravity that pulls the enchantress, the mother, and the artist from concept to execution. It is this necessary dance between dreaming and doing that (always, eventually) generates the leap from "the vision of the thing" to its coming into being.


Beloved for her earth-pigment paintings of moons and planets and visionary photography of womanhood in the abstract desert, artist, mother, enchantress, and radical creator Stella Maria Baer lives and makes beauty according to this exact gravitational pull. We connected with Stella to explore more fully her magical world of desert palettes, the cycles of color and memory, and the interconnected constellations of all of our human energies and orbits. We are all stardust.

 

Stella wears the Gia Sweater and Cara Straight Jean  

  

  

  





We love the gravitational pulls, parallels, and orbits your work brings to consciousness. How do you see cosmology between humans, creativity, the worlds of our origins, and those worlds as-yet-unexplored?

So much of my work the past ten years has traced a cosmology of color, drawing from my memory of the rock and dirt that surrounded me on camping trips with my mother as a child. Tracing my own origins back to the moments that formed me when I was little, driving in my mother’s butter colored station wagon, sleeping surrounded by pink canyon walls under the stars. The elements in our bodies, in the dirt, in the stars that fall, they are all made of the same things. And as I get older I find myself moving in circles around the places and materials of origin that shaped me as a child. I find myself returning with my own children to the campsites where I went with my mother when I was little. I find myself making paint from rocks collected along the edge of the highways I used to drive with my mom on our way to go camping. We are more connected than we realize to the land, and part of growing older is remembering that deep connection, recovering that lost self, finding ways to honor the land that formed us.

Tell us about Moon and Stars and/or wilderness and spirit and love.

When I was little my mother had an appaloosa horse, and I’ve been wanting one as long as I can remember. Last winter my husband’s sister Morgan, who has been rescuing slaughterhouse bound horses for twenty years, found an appaloosa in a kill pen in Texas. That weekend I sold enough paintings to buy her, and we had her trailered to our little ranch in New Mexico. She was very frightened and malnourished when she arrived, but longed to be touched. Our oldest child Wyeth named her Moon and Stars. Over the past ten months we’ve fed her wild grasses and hay and grains and she’s slowly come back to health. I started riding her this past summer, after months of building up trust and a sense of touch. She is wild and always teaching me to trust.

Motherhood itself is an ultimate (and continually transformative and generative) act of creation. How do your creative practice and your mothering practice overlap and inform each other conceptually?

Motherhood and painting are in some ways very similar, both began as invisible seeds planted within me, and slowly grew into beings who have lives of their own I never could have imagined. Carrying those seeds, letting them grow, watering them, feeding them, it all feels like a sacred journey. And also a tremendous amount of work, frustration, heartache, and working through risk, loss, and failure. But isn’t that the case with anything worth doing? There are times when my painting practice and caring for my children feel in tension, when it doesn’t feel like there are enough hours in the day, or enough of me. I try to honor those feelings as best I can while being present to my children and to my desire to make paintings. Thankfully I have a partner, my husband Seth, who is fully committed to me and to our children. We split work and childcare 50/50 five days a week. It is often a challenge to get all the work done I need to with only half a day, and some nights I have to stay up late working, but on the whole I really love moving back and forth between the two, I feel so lucky I get to do both, work as a painter and be a mother.

And there are moments when the two intertwine. My oldest child Wyeth has always loved red, even before he could speak he would choose the brightest of red pencils in the box. I’ve never been particularly drawn to red, I’m not sure why. After many years of living on the east coast, longing to move back to where I grew up in New Mexico, I slowly filled my home and life and work with the colors of the rock and dirt I remembered from my childhood, the colors of the land and sky I was longing to return to. When Wyeth was little and first beginning to love the color red I took him on a pigment collecting trip to a hillside in Colorado with deep red rock and we gathered some together, made it into paint, and he used my painting rollers to paint red stripes into his watercolor notebook. For many years his love of red bled into my own work, and I made many red moons and paintings of red hills. 

As Wyeth has gotten older he has made it clear that the red dusts of earth and mineral pigments are not quite red enough, he wants a brighter red. I’ve told him about Madder root and we’re going to try to grow some in the garden next year. 

The past few years I’ve wandered away from the reds and back into the dusty mauves and pinks that speak to my own heart. The ebb and flow of letting your children change how you see and how you think and who you are while still returning to and honoring your own self as a whole person is the great dance of motherhood.

 


  

  

 

 





 

 

Stella wears the Dance Wrap and Cara Straight Jean.  

  

  

  

 

  





How do you want to feel in your clothes?

I’ve always been very sensitive to fibers and how clothing feels on my body, and it’s important to me the cloth be soft to the touch, natural materials, good for my body and for the earth. I want to feel comfortable and like myself, I want to have pockets where I can carry rocks or horse treats, and feel like I’m a space cowboy.

How does that inform your personal style?

The past few years my style has been very nostalgic. I wear a lot of things similar to what my mom wore in the 80s and 90s and when she was working on her family’s ranch in Wyoming. High waisted jeans and cowboy boots and hats. I love wearing clothing the colors of the land and sky where we live. Some of your pieces remind me of The Man from Snowy River, a movie I used to watch over and over with my mom as a child, which I love. I think maybe my style is a cowboy riding a horse on the moon.

Children always notice the moon first. What does she show you?

I’ve been painting the moon for eight years now, and every moon seems to teach me something different. This last one was showing me the importance of cycles, of darkness, of timing, of waiting, of being patient, of letting myself be slowly drawn, of not rushing.

 

 

Follow Stella on Instagram here, and see more of her artwork here. Photos by Laura Dart.

Shop Stella's OZMA picks here.

 

 

  

 

 

 

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