LINDE WABER – Artist, Weaver of Artistic Networks, Mentor, mater familias
I have known Linde Waber not quite as long as many of her other friends and colleagues, but it still must be eleven or twelve years since we first met in her Vienna studio. It is precisely that circumstance, however, that allows me to combine up-close observation with a more distant, objective view – and from this “bifocal” vantage point the true phenomenon of Linde Waber takes shape.
The “phenomenon”, in my view, consists of Linde’s ability to successfully integrate a multitude of roles. She started this long before it became more common, and continues to this day. Along the way, and I must emphasize this, she has never lost authenticity in either of her roles. Anyone who knows Linde, knows: This woman is always true to her own self.
From deep within, she was able to, quite naturally, simultaneously satisfy the demands of two epochs in feminist thought into her activities without explicitly being a feminist herself (if I read her correctly). She solved, and continues to solve – squaring of the circle! – the demands of universalists as well as those of the differentialists. Equipped with great artistic talent, and overwhelming tenacity, she has been, and continues to be, non an equal footing with her male colleagues. She demands respect and acceptance from them just as she demands it from the public. In balance, however, she never renounced her role as a woman – with the differentialists at her side – probably out of the conviction that her womanity is the very well-spring of many of her abilities.
Linde Waber – the artist
Linde Waber challenges her male colleagues not only through the superior ease of her style and her adroit handling of large formats, but also because she seeks the delicate balance between mimesis (the reproduction of a segment of the visible world) and abstraction (the creation of work constituted solely of form and color) independently, and therefore solitarily. To paint, she retreats to her studio on the Gausplatz, right next to the Augarten Park in Vienna’s second district, or further to the Waldviertel*. Even when traveling with friends – in the Alps of Austria or among the waves of the Caribbean, or in France, or in Tibet – she always seeks a quiet spot, a bit secluded. Alas, sometimes it does happen, out of necessity, that she paints right in the center of a bustling crowd. A comparison of her works with those of Max Weiler, for whom nature was the most important inspiration, just as it is for Linde Waber, shows just how fearlessly independent her funambulistic acts of creation truly are. (In Linde’s case, this inspirational nature is often her own garden, surrounding the family villa in Zwettl). Like Linde, Weiler sought to retain the balance between mimesis and abstraction, and osmotically drew upon far eastern influences. The reference to this eminent Austrian artist also proves that it would be overly simplistic, even close-minded, to categorize nature or landscapes as a typical topic for female painters (Tina Blau or Olga Wiesinger-Florian come to mind).
Linde Waber – the weaver of artistic networks
“Linde Waber and Friends” is the title of the exhibition for which this portrayal has been written. And how much this already says about Linde Waber: She thinks of herself as tightly woven into a tapestry of visual artists, writers, musicians, etc. Yes, the list of her friends is like a “Who is who” of Austrian (and not just Austrian!) cultural circles. This is frequently claimed, but rarely as justified as it is for Linde Waber. She nurtures these friendships, because they are refreshing and constructive for all involved. Surrounded by friends, work happens collaboratively and side-by-side. Just take her garden in Zwettl, where one finds the remnants of these works dotted about the landscape: some are boldly displayed, some subdued, even hidden; some fight against the crush of time, while others await their end stoically – as if consciously designed to be re-absorbed by nature. Linde Waber actively maintains these close relationships even if the balance of give-and-take has run askew, when friends run into financial difficulties, withdraw from society, or need extensive support to get back on their feet. Linde Waber organizes whatever needs to be organized, pulls strings in the background – sometimes the beneficiaries are completely oblivious – but she is no puppet master, simply because she has too much respect for others – not just friends, but humanity as a whole. Even if the Sigmund Freud sesquicentennial has already passed, I still can’t stop myself from suggesting that Linde Waber shows this respect to others, because she herself, and her abilities, received such a respect when she was a child.
The very fact that this exhibition in the Leopold Museum emphasizes the closely-knit nature of this artistic network is a generous gesture and proves once more that Linde Waber can meet the arduous demands of both feminist factions without short-changing either one of them: She views herself as a strong link in a chain of creatives, captures their spark in her “Atelierzeichnungen”**, and gently nudges those, only those, who are stuck or struggle to find a foothold.
Linde Waber – the mentor
Linde Waber is obviously content with her decision to live life as an artist. More accurately, one has to say: She can’t imagine any other life. From this fundamental outlook she takes for granted that others also have the desire to be artists – even if they can’t live such a life, for whatever reason. We don’t have to agree here on the definition of an artist, the only thing that matters is that Linde Waber takes all artistic endeavors seriously and supports them through constructive criticism as well as warm encouragement. One can find 20 grown-ups in her garden, brought together from totally different occupations, engrossed in painting, drawing, or some other form of artistic expression. They might tread in Linde’s footsteps by seeking to capture her garden, or they might dreamily visualize the skyline of New York, or they might chip away at a woodcut to be printed later on the old press in the villa’s basement with help from Martin Annibas. All of the creations are presented to the group at the end of the day, and Linde Waber discusses possibilities for further development without forcing participants along a specific conceptual or stylistic pathway. Only one question is significant: Is the work, as it is right now, finished?
Her conviction that there is an artist in all of us becomes particularly tangible in her interaction with young people: In the spring of 2006 I visited Linde Waber in Zwettl with a group of students from the Institute of Art History at the University of Vienna. Linde not only had food prepared for all 25 (!) of us, but also had an interactive project ready: Each student should pick a stone from somewhere in the garden, paint it in one of the prepared colours, mostly signal-light red, and then deposit the stone somewhere in the garden. Klaus Fuchs documented this confrontation between the students and Linde’s garden in a photo series (Fig # – Fig #). This “paint performance” , so reminiscent of Easter customs like egg painting and egg hunts, led to a light-footed but gripping discussion of conceptual art in all of its facets. Thanks to Linde’s flair for pedagogy, the students fully engaged in the debate: their active participation forced them to switch, however briefly, from an analytical into an artistic mode.
Linde Waber – the mater familias
Linde Waber is also the living proof that it has not just recently become possible to reconcile an artistic career with a family life, and she did not see her role as a mother completed when her two children, Annika and Phillip, grew up. On the contrary, over the last 2 years she has spent several months in Paris, where her daughter lived and worked, to help her out and establish a bond with her granddaughter. During this period she focused on “Tageszeichnungen”***, in which she uses a variety of techniques (incl. collages) to work through the daily experiences. The “Parisian” branch of the family has recently moved to Vienna, by now with two children. Her son Philip is studying history here. I suspect Linde Waber will not give up the role of mater familiasany time soon, simply because that role and her other roles are simply not a contradiction to her. These roles overlap and flow into each other, just as her pictures have no hard-and-fast borders between colors and shapes. Everything is open-ended, not only in terms of neighboring entities, but also with respect to the future. Every point and line in her pictures has found its acutely correct spot, and yet it adds up to a kaleidoscopic effect. With a slight turn or a tender tap everything could be completely different in an instant – and would still feel right.
Footnotes (should be included in the book)
* The Waldviertel is the northwestern part of the province of Lower Austria. Linde Waber was born in Zwettl, one of the larger towns of the Waldviertel.
** “Atelierzeichnungen” are a long series of drawings in which Linde captures the studios and workspaces of artists with whom she has a personal connection. A selection of these drawings were presented in the “Genius Loci” exhibition (Künstlerhaus Wien, 2003) and accompanying book (Mandelbaum Verlag, 2003).
*** “Tageszeichnungen” are another long series of drawings, to which Linde contributes a single daily addition, capturing some highlight of the day, for more than 18 years. These daily drawings are done on Japanese Washi paper, 35 cm by 35 cm, 365 sheets a year, more than 6000 sheets in 18 years, adding up to about 10 loosely stacked centimeters in a square card board box for each year.
NOTES (not to be included in book!)
- “Vernetzerin” is a tricky term to translate, but needs to be carefully considered because of its central role in the overall title and as a key theme of a section. None of the one-word translations really work: “Networker” conjures up images of a salesperson running about with business cards. “Cross Linker”, based on the chemical term “Vernetzer”, sounds too technical. “Weaver”, based on the association with “verweben” is too vague without further clarification. And the rest of them just don’t fit at all: interlacer, intertwiner, interconnector, comingler, intermingler, amalgamator, intermesher, etc. For now, we have settled on “weaver of artistic networks”. Maybe the original author could provide some variations and explanations of her intent to resolve this better?
- “Diese Frau ist immer bei sich selbst” – This doesn’t seem to mean “always alone”, but what is the intended association? We’ve used “centered within herself”.
- “Frausein” is another tricky term. A direct translation could be “womanhood”, but this is more of a biological rather than a philosophical term. We’ve picked the fairly new feminist word “womanity” (which they use to reflect the female segment of humanity, much like “herstory” as opposed to “history”)
- “Ductus” seems to be a specialized term in German “art language”, meaning something like “style”. We simply use “style”, but if there is a more academically correct term in English it should be used.
- Spelling of “Gausplatz” here differs from the other texts. We kept the spelling used in this text, but you should consider changing it.
- The common translation of “Hochseilakt” would be something like “tight rope walking performance”, but we chose the more poetic phrase “ funambulistic acts of creation”, which is more consistent in tone with the rest of the text.
- The fragment “(Landschaft, bei Linde Waber oft ihr eigener Garten rund um die elterliche Villa im niederösterreichischen Zwettl)“ from Lines 32-33 does not smoothly fit into the translated sentence, and doesn’t flow well when included as a next sentence because it breaks the theme of male vs. female painters). We moved it up a little in the same paragraph.
- “die Austellung in deren Katalog dieser Text erscheint” ends up a bit clunky in the English version. We have rephrased it as “for which this portrayal has been written”.
- “in ein Netzwerk … eingebunden” we translated as “woven into a tapestry”, which is actually more like “eingewoben in eine Tapisserie”. The direct translation of “bound into a network” sounds much harsher in English than in it’s German counterpart.
- There are, of course, many possible translations of “Sonderling”, with varying degrees of slanginess (e.g. weirdo, nut job, crank, oddball). We were initially leaning towards “eccentric”, but decided in the end to go with the less judgmental phrase “withdraw from society”. The original author may wish to pick something with more bite, but that’s up to her…
- The same applies to “Pflegefall”, which directly translated would give “invalid” or “nursing case”. We decided to use the phrase “ need support to get back on their feet”.Once again, it’s up to the author to choose something harsher, if that is the intent of the text.
- The imagery in the phrase “greift zugleich dort, aber nur dort, mütterlich oder schwesterlich in die Speichen der anderen, wo die Räder andernfalls stecken oder am Stand drehen würden” doesn’t quite work the same in a direct translation, so we rewrote the sentence altogether to express the same idea. The original author should verify.