Heidi Erwin, Mark Baumer Prize, 2021

 

"One More Walk Around the Block" is a mixed-media illustration of a nameless, faceless protagonist's...walk around the block. With its disarming, BMO-esque narration and stunning use of color and negative space, this particular piece won my heart and reminded me of the warmth and unpretentious beauty of Mark Baumer himself. In choosing a winner for this award, meant to honor and remember his legacy, I considered both Mark's aesthetic/creative practice, as well as his way in the world (his personality, ethos, etc). As a poet and multifarious maker, Mark was genius for his capacity to use deceptively simple (direct) language to convey complex truths. In that sense, his work was broadly accessible without sacrificing intellectual rigor or aesthetic integrity. And as a person, Mark was much the same. He was kind, patient, a true listener. He was also courageous, (com)passionate, and willing to fight for causes he believed in. I'll never forget sitting with Mark at "Tealuxe" eating through a bag of string beans—I left that conversation feeling truly seen. And it breaks my heart that someone so beautiful could have gone so soon. But the fullness of his life and legacy remain with us in profound ways. 

 

Perhaps it bears repeating for those of you who never knew Mark: he loved walking. He REALLY loved walking. So this year's winner "One More Walk Around The Block," is an homage to Mark in more ways than one. It is a celebration of the mundane, of the subtly weird, of finding beauty in the everyday things that give our world color and meaning. And while I adore the humility and humor of this cute comic, more important is its treatment of the common as sacred—that nothing, not even a rock, or an ornamented tree, or a barbed-wire fence, is without purpose and beauty. There is an almost Buddhistic/animistic appreciation here for life in all corners, expressing finally that we each exist in continuities that extend well beyond what can be obviously perceived with our senses. In conversation with a great disembodied voice and the objects that make our flaneur's life meaningful, we readers are simultaneously able to let go and insist... "goodbye, turquoise fence. if i cannot find a turquoise fence as beautiful as you, i will hope that time is cyclical, and wait until i see you again." We are able to love transcendently. Though we may inhabit these bodies, these earthly objects, for only a moment, our souls carry on in very real, very palpable ways.