New York

Natalie Bieser

Natalie Bieser’s work consists of tiny beads strung in clusters on threads which are suspended between two slight wooden strips fixed to the wall. In some of the works, the wooden strips are positioned vertically and parallel so that the two or three strands of thread simply hang loosely between them with the major clusters of beads gathering at the lowest point on the curve of the thread. In other works, the wooden strips are at right angles or crossed or simply in different positions forming different configurations and sometimes causing a gentle twist in the sequence of the strands of thread. The wooden strips are painted in bright pastel, blending colors and the heads are of different colors, hardly larger than the thread on which they are strung. Aside from the clusters of beads, occasional single or small groups of beads dot the black lines of the threads. This description sounds a bit like Alan Shields, and the coloring of the wooden strips and the use of thread and beads certainly bring Shields to mind, but Bieser’s work is not so Baroque as Shields’, nor does her work carry his overload of primitive, mystical, cultish connotations. On the contrary, the hazard in Bieser’s work is in its elegance and refinement; her work is so delicate and visually attractive that it borders on being simply decorative.

It is obviously possible to speak of Bieser’s work in terms of drawing or painting, but once the possibility has been pointed out as if by obligation, there is hardly anything further to say. What interests me in her works is the physical structure by which each piece exists. While in certain of the pieces the beads seem to congregate just where we might expect, at the lowestpoint on the downward curve of the hanging thread, there are other beads which have not slid down to join the cluster but remain at various points on the slope. These beads are not somehow defying gravity, but are obviously glued or fixed in some way in position on the thread; these beads indicate that what appears to be a natural cluster at the bottom of the curve is not so natural at all, but is fixed into position there. In several of the pieces this is important, as the curving cluster of beads forming the base of the curve of the suspended thread is clearly not where it should be; that is, the base of the curve is to one side or in a place which we know cannot be the way the thread naturally hangs. It might be expected that this is accomplished by having the thread fixed to the wall at crucial points to explain and permit such an extragravitational configuration, but this is not the case. Nothing but the wooden strips from which the threads hang are fixed to the wall. The position of the wooden strips and the location and formation of the beads glued in clusters solely determines the configuration formed in the work. And what this comes to is a reversal of the structural situation we expect, assume, and which is apparent in the work: the position and form of the bead clusters are not determined by the configuration of the work as it is subject to gravity, the configuration as it is subject to gravity is determined by the position and form of the clusters of beads. Here the questionable metaphor of one visual element activating another can be used without its usual emptiness; for in Bieser’s work, to say that the beads activate the lines of thread is to say what is literally the case.

Bruce Boice