This ArtBinder Artist’s Spotlight features multi-dimensional artist, Chellis Baird. Baird has a unique and exquisitely textured solo show, Meditative Motions, now on view from November 14-February 20, 2019 at the Louise Nevelson Chapel. Her work employs a rich ballet of human emotion and shared experience woven, twisted, and stretched across her sculptural canvases. The sensational experience of beholding her work invites the viewer to disconnect from the constant demand of digital distractions and contemplate the physical world. We caught up with Baird for an inside look into her current show and what drives her to create.
ArtBinder:What is the inspiration for your artwork and upcoming show?
Chellis Baird: I was deeply inspired by the sacred space Louise Nevelson created for the Chapel at Saint Peters Church. The sculptural environment encourages meditation and reflection through a white monochromatic palette, welcoming the viewer to paint their own colors. Caress, Collide, Crescendo, Cambre, Chasse, Connect, Coupe, and Cloud—a series of white-on-white works that pay respect to Nevelson’s use of white in Nevelson Chapel—explore how contrasting gestures dissolve within themselves or together to offer moments of tethered relationship. As such, the series examines and celebrates communities of connection between individuals.
AB:When did you know you wanted to be an artist? Was there a specific moment of realization?
CB: Painting rainbows under an archway in my parents’ home.
At a very young age I was painting with my father, creating crafts with my grandmothers, and building for hours. My father would give me still life drawing lessons before bed on perspective and line using a coffee mug. My grandmothers, whom I called Betty Boop and BigMama, were both painters and made Valentines, dolls’ clothes and papier mache ornaments.
AB: What is the process by which you create art? How do you work?
CB: I blend sculpture, painting, and textiles by weaving emotional explorations of color and form. Building on my experience as a Fashion Designer, I have developed a strong language for texture through fabric. I focus on how materials can articulate movement or feeling, while also dissecting the elements of a painting: fabric, paint, and wood.
AB: What is the conceptual content for your artwork currently? How has that evolved throughout your career?
CB: I work with 4 main themes throughout my process: Being an American Artist, reflecting on the world history of painting, the use of texture in contrast to digital age, and a touch of fashion.
American: Referencing American history of craft while building on the idea of making and maker as artist.
World history of painting: The oldest form of painting is Encaustic which was found on Egyptian tombs, namely post-mortem portraits. I am fascinated with the ingredients of a paining: paint, wood, fabric; I rearrange theses elements to make my statement.
Texture: The earth is a spinning ball of texture; I use texture to contrast how we currently live, in a digital world of slick screens.
Fashion: Personal drive and interest for unique combinations of material that come alive with a human spirit, gesture or attitude.
AB: Where do you draw inspiration from?
CB: Travel, dance, human interactions.
AB: Is there something specific that you consciously do to drive your craft and keep inspiration flowing?
CB: Each work informs the next piece. I often unexpectedly focus on an element from a previous work that becomes the seed of inspiration for my next work. I maintain balance and clarity of ideas by taking ballet and yoga classes a few times a week.
AB: What does your work aim to say? What will you be remembered by?
CB: Raw beauty of life moments. A uniquely creative perspective.
AB: Why do you do what you do? What do you find most rewarding about an artistic career?
CB: Passion, curiosity, and drive to create. The discovery and journey through each piece and watching it unfold.
AB: Does technology play a role in your work? If so, how?
CB: I use intense texture to remind me of the human hand, in contrast to the slick screens we weave our lives through.
In the context of this exhibition, I transform materials to celebrate the transition from the mundane to the sacred, using shadow and light to sculpt a visual language. I want the repetitive patterns in my work to ground and invite the viewer into physical spaces, asking them to uncover their eyes, bodies, and souls by honoring the sacred spaces around us.