Maximilian Magnus Schmidbauer, Studio view in front of “Holding You” 280cm x 250cm
Acrylic and lacquer on canvas, 2012 in the Berlin studio
Image courtesy of the artist
KATY DIAMOND HAMER: Maximilian, why don’t we start with your experience at the Watermill Center located in Long Island, New York. Since you are German and currently based in Berlin, maybe you can talk a little about how you got involved in the center.
MAXIMILIAN MAGNUS SCHMIDBAUER: My father has been doing backdrops for Robert Wilson for over 15 years. It was 2006 when I had just entered a period where I would be taking over part of his business [Kulturegg – Atelier Schmidbauer – academy of scenic painting & arts] that we are running just outside of munich- when i was asked by Bob in 2006 if I’d be interested in giving a workshop at the Watermill Center in New York. It was a six intense weeks, living and working with almost 100 other artists from all over the world. Working with Bob is great. It was the first time in my life that I felt understood in terms of my aesthetics. The world that I was always trying to create around me- he was living it. Seeing this in him helped me to act upon my own instinctual and aesthetic choices in many different ways. [The results were in] my work, my living environments, my studio- simply everything. Something very special of course is that the people I met over the last eight years through the Watermill Center are everywhere; art, theatre, opera, dance etc. I just had a performance in Berlin where I worked with Daniel Dodd Ellis at Momentum at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, a friend and great opera singer, who I met seven years ago through Robert Wilson.
Maximilian Magnus Schmidbauer, “Earnest“ 160cm x 120cm
Acrylic on canvas, 2012, in the Berlin studio
Image courtesy of the artist
KDH: As most people now know, sadly, Lisa de Kooning tragically passed away at the age of 56 in November 2012. She was a vital part of the de Kooning legacy having established the Willem de Kooning Foundation and she was a long time Board Member of the Watermill Center. Can you talk a little about your interactions with her?
MMS: Yes- her death was like losing a friend, a sister, a mother. Lisa de Kooning was the most generous person that I´d ever met in my life. She also had a strong personality and you did not want to fuck around with her. Our friendship and work experience started very spontaneously. I was in New York City, found her number in my phone (she had given me a year before at her father’s studio) and just called her up. Ten minutes later we were having coffee, two hours later I sat with her and others from the Willem de Kooning Foundation at their office. They asked if I would be interested in working and showing my artwork at the artists’ studio on Long Island, a first after his death in 1997. Six hours later I was working on my first painting surrounded by de Kooning’s paintings, a garden, Lisa and her daughters. Even deer nibbled grass just outside the studio. Everything went very fast, easy and was so well set up and supported by Lisa. I slept at the studio and was blown away by how everything went. The experience now feels like it flew by. [As her life and her death] was too fast and too short.
After that initial day, Lisa and I worked together for almost two years, developing the artist-in-residence program at the de Kooning studio. We often traveled to Miami, LA, all over Europe and saw a lot of art fairs. We even visited my home and studio in Allgäu/Bavaria, Germany. Spending time and working with her was always a mixture of feeling artistically uninhibited yet protected. We always spoke about art but also life, love, and pain. I’m very happy to have met her. I will always keep her in my mind as a great friend, sister and supporter of my art.
Maximilian Magnus Schmidbauer, ”Shoe town” 130cm x 190cm
Acrylic on canvas, 2009, Made at the de Kooning studio in New York
Image courtesy of the artist
KDH: Did you ever get to speak to her about her own art practice?
MMS: She was very talented. Her paintings and especially her sculptures are so strong, full of energy and a power that not many artists have. It’s not easy to be the daughter of a famous artist like she was.
I always thought and still think that her works are very different and even stronger than her fathers. When she worked on a piece she was very fast and absolutely absorbed in the moment with the work. I learned a lot from her.
Maximilian Magnus Schmidbauer, ”Elegance” 147cm x 264cm
Acrylic on canvas, 2010, painted in Bavaria
Image courtesy of the artist
KDH: How would you say that your time at Watermill Center affected your own art career and practice?
MMS: Well, having the support of Bob along with honest critique from other artists is worth a lot. No one kisses your ass which is great. You have to be willing to raise the bar and not be satisfied with less. I got invited by Andrey Bartenev, who I met at Watermill, to show my work at the Biennale of Modern Art at the Museum of Jung Art in Moscow. Andrey is a great Russian artist and friend. He was the second artist to officially work at the de Kooning studio after me. We have worked together quite a lot and we will again I hope. I love him.
KDH: Danke Maximilian. It was great getting to chat with you. I love how the art world is so small and how you are part of the link that I also share between New York and Berlin. So glad you had these experiences and many more to come! Looking forward to seeing you next time I am in Berlin.
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