Bebe Krimmer featured in February/March 2009 issue of Santa Fean Magazine

infinite quest: Bebe Krimmer’s (inter)stellar creative journey

Bebe Krimmer is stuck at home, The snow is piling up, the grade of her quarter-mile-long driveway is steep, and, for once, the 78-year-old artist has decided not to venture out for her morning swim. “My friends always worry because they know I do crazy things,” says Krimmer. ‘The fit, wiry, five-foot-tall artist with twinkling blue eyes and chiseled cheekbones could barrel down her driveway in her four-wheel-drive SUV if she put het mind to it but she’s decided to stay put In her sprawling adobe home—filled with colorful Indian textiles, thrift—shop ceramics, and kilim rugs amid her own paintings, collages, and prints that chronicle the evolution of her 60—year career—Krimmer has plenty to keep her busy. At the moment she’s trying to deconstruct, reconstruct, then altogether transcend the universe.

Anyone who saw her one-woman show Principia at Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art last April gets it that Krimmer’s life as an artist—she started taking classes at the Art Institute of Chicago at the age of 12—has resulted in a profound ability to articulate an abstract concept into a coherent body of work. In the last decade, most of that work has related to the sky. Principia, a name borrowed from Newton’s 17th-century text Phibsophiac Nacuralis Principia Mathematica, was a collection of more than 25 contemporary collages representing imaginary star charts. Colorful, jewel—like paper planers that seem to swirl in place light up rhe dark,layered-paper rendrririgs of space. Some of the pieces look almost like a musical score, which isn’t endrely by accident. “Collage is my jazz,” Krimmer says excitedly. “When you’re putting it down, layer after layer after layer, there’s a rhythm to it.”

Krimmer became fascinated with the sky after moving to Santa Fe with her now-deceased husband, Burton, 15 years ago. Then her 41-year-old son, Daniel, died of a brain tumor and Krimmer became obsessed with it. “When I lost my child I wondered, where did he go?” she says, standing in front of a shimmering near-black canvas with a scarlet band across the top. The acrylic painting seems simple at first but has so much depth and layered texture that it changes almost imperceptibly with the slightest movement of the viewer.

“I knew I wanted to do the impossible,” Krimmer explains, “to depict infinity with a limited palette. Of course,” she adds, “I was wishing we all could be infinite.” The piece, called Daniel, which she considers to be one of her finest works, has never appeared in public. But Chiaroscuro director and curator John Addison has a few similar paintings in his collection. 

Since last April, the artist has been recharging her batteries: touring Gujarat, India; socializing with her many friends in Santa Fe; keeping fit with her Pilates, hiking and swimming regimen; and logging hours in her backyard studio experimenting with the cosmos, “When I am between projects I go back to the purest form,” says Krimmer, “I just paint—no collages. no technical stuff. I just let whatever is going to happen, happen. and if I allow that to come to the surface, I can feel like I’m on the brink of something exciting.” 

For today, that amounts to peering out her studio window into the bone-white winter sky and trying to capture the emotion it elicits on a blank canvas. It’s not easy. But Krimnier has had a lot of practice.

—-Stephanie Pearson