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Visual Art

Bernd Haussmann divides his time between Marblehead and Maine, where he and his wife Anne work on a 450-acre nature project. His work has been exhibited in national and international art fairs and is in numerous private, corporate, and museum collections around the world.


Image: We recently collaborated on an exhibition of your work titled Dark Night Dark Light at the Parsonage Gallery. For many of our readers, that title will evoke the Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross and his “dark night of the soul.” What kinds of theological ideas did you have in mind as you were preparing the exhibition?

BH: Dark Night speaks of the source, Dark Light of change and the natural rhythm of all existence. The title evokes ideas and emotions that evolved naturally from my art practice. I’m not interested in any particular school of contemplation; my intention is to stay open to all, to learn through my practice. In Buddhism and the Advaita

Bernd Haussmann. Natura Naturans, 2023. Etching and acrylics on acrylic glass. 27¾ x 23 inches.

Vedanta, this is called direct experiencing, infinite open awareness, or big mind.

Drawing from the source directly is the practice that I call art. The practice came first, the ideology second. In the beginning was the picture-and then came the word. In the end, the word only gets in the way of the practice. Unlearning, or rather, cultivating beginner’s mind, is one of the crucial points of my practice.

Image: The Dark Night Dark Light exhibition involved displaying the works in darkness, with visitors carrying candles to view the pieces. What do you see in them now that you might not have anticipated? Will they be shown in clear light in the future, or have they become creatures of darkness, as it were?

BH: In the past, I created many paintings in total darkness-in order to eliminate visual distractions and to give up control. The works in this exhibit were selected because I was curious how they would present themselves under conditions of darkness. They will return to the light and hopefully continue to speak in whichever environment they are placed. In reality, any painting-at the studio, storage facility, gallery, public or private space-will live her life partly in darkness. Each painting responds in a unique way to her ever-changing environment. They emerged from darkness-the original darkness, what I would call the big soup or consciousness: the unconditioned primal state-and they live in darkness and light until they return to the darkness that birthed them.

To answer your question, I try to be passionately disengaged from my works and see no reason to hold on to any of them. Once they have spoken to me, I trust that the truth they shared will remain in me.

Image: It seems to me you’re doing something unusual by returning viewers to a more antiquated, mysterious experience, with parallels to candlelit cathedrals or even caves. How have you seen viewers react?

BH: There used to be a time when there was darkness and light. One could get up at four-thirty in the morning and sit outside and observe the gentle change from

Bernd Haussmann. From the Nature of Things-Review, 2023. Etching, inks, acrylic on reversed acrylic glass. 11¾ x 7½ inches.

darkness to light. And in the evening, the same thing in reverse. Like a slow, soft breath, in and out, hardly noticeable, but very present when you are really awake. We sacrificed the night. And what is left of it we are scared of. We fear what Saint John of the Cross called the darkness of the soul.

There are two darknesses. The one I just mentioned, the scary one, and the one that existed before dark and light: the darkness of the womb, the source, the god before God, the place from which dark and light emerge and return.

Because we lost the other side of light (meaning darkness) we also lost that original darkness, the spiritual and creative one. When dark and light are not in balance and one takes over, we not only play a devastating game with the natural world, we also sacrifice the mystical, the unseeable, the unknowable, the metaphysical, along with our naturalness. That recognition is what I sensed some of the viewers experienced while exploring the space, creating their own pictures, guided by the light they carried.

Image: Many of these works are embedded with natural elements. Can you talk a bit more about how the environment around your Maine home shaped this body of work?

Dark Night Dark Light at the Parsonage Gallery in Searsport, Maine, 2023.

BH: I trust that art is nature and nature is art. Bringing in elements from the natural world in which these works evolved seemed an obvious choice. There is so much to talk about, but there is so much more to see. As my wife and I live our art, our surroundings in Maine are helpful in not surrendering in these times of darkness. In art, the big and overwhelmingly scary questions become smaller, clearer and more approachable-sometimes even answerable-as we recognize the nature that we really are.

Image: We opened this exhibition a few days after a mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine. We considered postponing but decided to go ahead as planned. Why did you feel so passionate about seeing art in that moment?

BH: Art speaks most vividly in times of darkness. The only way to not surrender is to let the art speak loud and clear-of our true, deep self and our intrinsic values. Art brings light into darkness. So many of us are lost and so scared and confused that we turn even from the natural light inside that could guide us. Darkness carries the unknowable; light carries knowledge. More light means more insight. May we all come to our senses.

Image: To me, the soundtrack that plays in the exhibition has a rather liturgical feel, like vespers being sung in outer space. What is the music, and how did you select it?

BH: The soundtrack is the product of my artist’s residency at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. It was a collaboration with Neil Leonard and his students at

Bernd Haussmann. As the Rain Is Falling II, 2018. Ink and mixed media on canvas. 60 x 48 inches.

Berklee College of Music. The aim was to make audible the spectrum of life and its infinite flavors. The piece is called “Female Rabbit DNA” and was composed by Zoe Zai. [Hear the part of soundtrack with video of the exhibition here.]

Music has always been with me as an active component of my practice. In the very beginning, maybe there was music, then pictures, then words. At least that seems to fit my biography. Many sound pieces have inspired this project, which really started maybe thirty years ago. I am moved by sources that speak of darkness and light, from Bach’s last fugue to Mahler’s “Urlicht” and Schumann’s “Nachtlied.” Music, like all art and meditation, creates openings for direct experience. This is what I am after.






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