BISMARCK (AP) - Painter Audrey Bauer could be considered an expert in impermanence.
"I do a lot of prairie roses and crocuses," she said. "Crocuses are just out for a week or two."
Bauer has learned that human life can seem just as fleeting. The New Salem native first picked up a brush after her two daughters, Vicky Ann and Verdean Bauer, were killed by a drunken driver on May 31, 1979. Painting became Bauer's way of coping with the loss, the Associated Press reported.
New Salem-Almont artist Audrey Bauer poses with some of her work Aug. 5 that captures the North Dakota farmland and prairie landscape through watercolor and oil paintings.
"I felt I had to do something. You can't sit and stare at the four walls," she said.
Verdean, 18, had just graduated from New Salem High School, and Vicky Ann, 19, was a rising junior at Minot State College. The sisters were jogging on a highway east of New Salem when they were struck from behind by a pickup truck and killed. The 22-year-old driver was uninjured.
"That's the worst thing that can ever happen to you," Bauer said.
Bauer arrived at painting as a form of healing just as art therapy was developing as a therapeutic discipline. Today, Sara Bashus, a social worker and therapist, uses creative therapies such as art and play in her treatment of patients at Sanford Behavioral Health.
"Art allows outward expression of the internal experience," Bashus said. "It brings the unconscious to consciousness through symbolic communication."
Bashus explains that art therapy opens up hidden feelings, reduces stress following trauma and gives the artist a sense of accomplishment.
"Often, beauty comes from it," Bashus said.
Bauer, a stay-at-home mom, had always liked drawing. She created her first paintings with oils and studied under several local artists, including Rosemary Landsberger. Bauer later switched to watercolors but retained her oil-painting techniques.
Thirty-three of Bauer's paintings are on view at Bismarck Art & Galleries Association. Although she sometimes uses her pets, her son, Kevin, and her husband, Calvin, as subjects, all of the paintings in the exhibit feature scenes from North Dakota. Work titles include "Seasonal Beauty," ''Quiet Afternoon Near Flasher" and "Glen Ullin Watched Over by Twin Buttes."
Bauer typically captures plants and landscape scenes first with a camera, then paints from photographs at her dining room table. By the time she completes a painting, usually about two months later, her original subject matter has already shifted with the seasons or faded away.
Pointing to a landscape of a pasture with a gate, Bauer said, "It's apartment houses now. Wasn't it beautiful?"
Bauer also has exhibited her work at Bismarck's Gallery 522. This is her first show for BAGA.
Her paintings look better in the gallery than they did at home, she said.
"The genies and the elves, the fairies, they work on them when you're not looking," Bauer said. "Then when you look at (the paintings) again, they look better."