About Tsondu | The Creative Work of Kirstin Alana Baum

Rochig 5. 2013
Graphite, pastel, gesso drawing on Yupo translucent medium.

Artist’s Statement


I am a visual and sculptural artist whose work revolves around subjects of ecology, the nature of perception, compassion and the interconnectedness of all life. My creative work inquires into the multiplicity of perception: how many ways can we perceive the same "thing"? We can "be" many things at once. We can think & feel many things all at the same time.  I am interested in exploring the countless ways one can perceive one's self, the "other", our world. How can we embrace these countless perceptions and experience them as one moment of beauty & equanimity, bringing us to a meaningful connection with our world? My work aspires to challenge you to perceive in new ways, in ways that expand the mind and heart. I consider my creative work, Tsondu, which in Tibetan means joyful effort, perseverance.

Much of my past visual work explores spaces, relationships and connections of basic forms in the phenomenal world: lines and circles, particularly those in nature. In terms of elemental forms, lines emulate limitless possibilities of perceiving the world; circles, the compassion that can grow out of experience, if perceived with awareness and patience.

It  aspires to cultivate awareness around possibility; the possibility that beauty and compassion are everywhere, connecting one to another. It explores the complexity of relationships at both the micro and macrocosmic levels; relationships not just of people, but of all living things in relation to one another within their ecological environment.  By learning to perceive the interconnected beauty of the outer world, we transform the inner world of the mind, which then reflects back into the world. Our mind creates reality. My work is offered with the intention that it will inspire new ways of seeing the world; one that encourages others to discover this integration of perception and compassion in their own lives, world, space, a melding of self and other. May we use our imagination to create a beautiful, peaceful space for all beings.

My recent work in Land Ethics and Environmental Education has me re-directing focus within my creative work. My current project aspires to explore and address issues of global water ethics and the role of gender equity in ameliorating complex problems of Climate Change. This new series is within the medium of textile arts, employing organic fibers, integrating indigo dying, and drawing upon the stitch work traditions of Boro and Sashiko (Japan), Nubi (Korea), and Kantha (India). I aspire to share the beginnings of this new work in the upcoming year.




I consider myself a student of life and learn more from what I presently see-hear-feel than from anything I could ever read in a book. I am particularly drawn to the natural world, for the wisdom it holds and reveals if one is willing to listen. Poignant childhood experiences of creeks, lakes, and rivers in Wisconsin and rural Oklahoma are fluid terrain of my inner heartscape; sun, moon, stars and old growth trees angelic presence. Red rock outcroppings and loamy earth carpeted with moss and pine needles, my witness.

As a child I grew up with constant but subtle lessons in spatial and haptic awareness. My mother’s first college degree was in architectural engineering, my father’s advanced degree in paper physics. While lessons were not overt, spatial principles inherent to architecture and physics pervaded our daily life, be it in the arrangement of furniture, planning of a garden or a road trip. Both my parents are gifted in various skilled handcrafts. My fondest familial memories include watching my mother sew my clothes, and my father work wood, building a sailboat that would eventually expand my view past riverbank and shoreline. Spatial awareness became a second language for me. I grew adept at seeing the relationship of things in space, and the movement of things through space. The practice of skilled handcraft—be it sewing, embroidery, carpentry, pottery, bookbinding, paper making, etc.—all become practices in haptic awareness, a practice in which one aligns the mind with the hands in space, just as one aligns the mind, breath and body during meditation.

My experiences as a formal student include a liberal arts education at Lawrence University, where I earned a BA with honors in religious philosophy and studied art as a minor emphasis, learning drawing and sculpture from Arthur Thrall and Rolf Westphal, respectively.  I pursued graduate studies at The University of Iowa, earning first a MA in theology and ethics with special emphasis on narrative and feminist theory and then completing the graduate Certificate program at The Center For The Book. My training within the Center afforded me the opportunity to study with a wide variety of international crafts people and artists. Within this community I learned significant principles of design, papermaking, letterpress printing, with emphasis in historical book structures and materiality. During this era I was deeply influenced by such mentors and colleagues as Timothy Barrett, Jim Canary, Jim Croft, Tatiana Ginsberg, Jill Iacchei, Cheryl Jacobsen, Martha Little, Harry & Sandra Reese, Sara T. Sauers, Gaylord Shanilec, David Wolske, Larry Yerkes, as well as the people and collections of The Iowa Women’s Archives. For twelve years I served as the Assistant Rare Book Conservator at the University of Iowa Libraries under Head Conservator, Gary Frost. I also taught bookbinding, book arts, and book studies classes as Adjunct Faculty within the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History and the School of Library and Information Science. Some of my students were my greatest teachers. 

My life and work are informed by such artists as Hilma af Klint, Anne Appleby, Ruth Asawa, Andy Goldsworthy, Robert Irwin, Dorothea Lange, Agnes Martin, Isamu Noguchi, and Georgia O'Keeffe, and by anonymous slow craft traditions that invest in process, that imbue the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi:  carpentry, garden and architectural design, natural dying, paper making, and most specifically folk textile stitch work and embroidery practices from around the world. These artists and traditions evoke experiences for me that relate to quiet patient awareness, softness, light/shadow, interconnectedness, impermanence and ultimately sense of place.

In recent years I completed Land Ethics Leadership training through the Aldo Leopold Foundation and certification in "Trans-disciplinary Approaches to the Wicked Problem of Climate Change" through Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. The realities of Climate Change and global environmental problems, particularly water issues and gender equity, are now a primary catalyst for my creative work. 

Native to Wisconsin, I reside in rural Vernon County in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin, where I am a humble and devoted steward to over 8 acres that are part of the Mississippi River Watershed and Flyway. When not in the studio, I might be working on the land restoring native prairie and woodland or collecting bird species data as a citizen scientist. When not in the studio or on the land, I am in meditation retreat. I enjoy a quiet life away from urban centers and social media; you will not find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or the like, but I do keep a simple youtube channel where I occasionally post fledgling ambient field recordings of the Upper Mississippi River.

I am not prolific, but intentional in the sharing of my work. I tend to exhibit something every few years and occasionally write on topic for a cause. To learn more, please visit my exhibition and collection history and my publication and training history.




All content (image and writings) copyright Kirstin Alana Baum, 2019.