Kristen Baumliér’s work spans the full spectrum of interdisciplinary media, including performance, installation, video and audio. In 2005, Baumliér began performing as the “The Petroleum Pop Princess,” a pop icon engaging viewers about oil consumerism. She has performed at the Mattress Factory, the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, and at the Headlands Center for the Arts.
Her work has shown at the Sculpture Center in Cleveland, OH, Hotcakes Gallery in Milwaukee, WI and the UNI Gallery of Art. Her videos have screened in New Zealand, Serbia, England, and in the U.S. In 2009, Baumlier began researching food and health, and is currently developing new work that presents questions about food. Her work and blog can be seen at www.kristenbaumlier.com
How do you identify yourself as an artist (poet, fiction writer, painter, photographer, etc.)?
I am a interdisciplinary artist. I combine analog and digital sources and work in forms including video, sound, photography, performance and installation. I research issues of science and history through art. I believe that art can communicate new ideas, and call people to action. I see art making as a process of research and discovery.
What is/has been your relationship to libraries?
I always have loved to read, and checked out books, CDs, and images since I was a girl. In the library I used in grade school, it was possible to check out books, records and also pieces of framed artwork. I loved to check out both fiction, non-fiction, and pieces of framed art that I would hang in my room.
I use libraries as a resource in developing my work. I find research to be exciting and an integral starting place for my projects. I begin a new project with a gathering process; getting books, images, and articles about a topic. I use online search tools to find books, images, and articles, and also spend time in libraries looking at the books I requested, as well as browsing the stacks.
I began making artwork before the web was a resource, and would visit various local, school, and university libraries, and would look through the library stack and card catalog for possible sources of inspiration, imagery, and information that I could use.
Have libraries informed or inspired your work, and if so, how?
Libraries have inspired my work. Often the “new or featured book” area – provides new sources of ideas and inspiration, and provides new sources that I might otherwise not know about.
I did a project about petroleum for several years, and spent time finding historical images, documents, and books about the history of petroleum. For this project, I used various libraries including the Drake Well Museum Library which is at the site of the first commercial oil well in Titusville, PA. I also researched the history of coal and petroleum, and worked to locate the earliest illustrations of the Carboniferous forest, the prehistoric forest that became coal. To find these images, I was able to get access to some books from the 1800’s that were in storage facilities of the Kelvin Smith library at Case Western Reserve University. I also found these images by wandering the stacks of the books at the Harold T. Clark Library a the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
For another project about food and natural systems, I went to the library at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison to find images about the history of margarine. Margarine was one of the first engineered foods and was “outlawed” in the state. It was called Oleo 50 years ago, and I found interesting images in the image library of housewives smuggling a trunk of margarine from Illinois to Wisconsin and early political cartoons about the fight against margarine.
Why did you decide to include libraries in your creative process?
I enjoy the “hunt” and process of trying to finding historical sources, and other resources that are relevant to my projects. I also enjoy going to various libraries, and feel like the process is sometimes a performance – where I play the role of “scholar” or discoverer – in seek of information or new ideas.
What can libraries do to serve artists?
I think libraries do a great job of serving artists in terms of providing access to resources and information. I was once in an art exhibition in a library in Columbus, OH – and found it to be rewarding to show work in a library, the place that many of ideas evolve from. More libraries should have exhibitions of artist work.
As an artist, what would your ideal library look like?
My ideal library has a variety of spaces and resources. Digital catalogues, stacks of books, magazines, audio CDs, and other materials should be available to use or check out. Having a variety of sitting areas, reading areas, listening areas, study rooms, and also meeting rooms also make a great library. A gallery area to show artist works would also be located in the library.
What specific libraries have played a role in your work? Are there things that stand out to you about these libraries?
I work at the Cleveland Institute of Art, in University Circle in Cleveland, OH. I am lucky to have access to many libraries, each of which has its own specialty and unique space. I often visit the Gund Library at CIA which has a large collection of art and design books. We also are fortunate to have Cris Rom as our head librarian, who keeps our collection up to date. The library also has one of the largest collections of artist handmade books. I also use the Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University, which has a variety of sitting and reading areas, as well as electronic stacks of books. I have used the Harold T. Clark Library at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which focuses on natural history books and resources. This past year, with my current work focusing on food and sustainability, I have been using the Cleveland Botanical Garden’ s Eleanor Squire Library. I often will talk to librarian Gary Esmonde when I visit, who often suggests great books and resources for my projects. I also use the Cleveland Heights library, the Cuyahoga County library catalogue, and have access to OhioLink, a network of 150 libraries across the state.
What resources do you use in your library(s)?
I sometimes get books in order to find images as references or sources. I also regularly use books and articles to help get familiar or to learn more about a topic that I plan to do a project on. I currently have many books on reserve about food equity issues.
How do you find out about events or resources at your library(s)?
I regularly check the library websites for updates, and also learn about new resources by talking to the librarians.
What does the phrase “library as incubator” mean to you?
Library as incubator means to be a place that encourages and fosters new ideas, growth, interaction, and community development. I see the library as a place full of potential and a place that both preserves history and creates change.
All work on this page is copyright of the featured artist.