Chellis Baird’s work bridges the fine line between painting, sculpture and textile work, which is no easy feat. Baird’s sculptures require that extra layer of attention in order to really take in all the details: bright colors interwoven with gold accents, as well as the hint of foreign materials bulging from underneath. Her current exhibition, The Touch of Red, explores the significance of the color red in Baird’s practice. The color red is Baird’s favorite color, and holds much significance to her. The color conjures a wide range of symbols, feelings and history, including the contrasting emotions of love and pain, as well as symbols such as good luck, war and seduction. For this exhibition, Baird developed a shade of red with local suppliers in New York and Georgia and also developed her first metal and rosin works titled Serpentine and Flirt with the assistance of a foundry in Long Island City. The exhibition is up through April 8th at the National Arts Club.
During our studio visit, I was floored by the scale of your works, the textures, the colors and interwoven layers. Can you share a little bit more about your process of working on a wider scale? Are the materials that you work with actually dense, and difficult to manipulate or is that a bit of our eyes playing tricks on us?
I love working on a larger scale. The ability to exaggerate a shape or composition within the proportions larger than the average person is quite exciting. An important facet to my art practice is dance. I have taken ballet since age five and see dancing as drawing in space. These drawings are then applied to the many forms you see in my work. I look forward to creating giant works in the future perhaps bigger than a stage.
The materials I used are very light weight, mostly different forms of cotton and silk. However, some of the larger works have a birch panel backing that makes the work heavy but all under 50 pounds.
You mentioned that red is an important color to you, and that you have a specific shade of red Mac lipstick you’ve been drawn to for years. It’s also no coincidence your exhibition is titled The Touch of Red! Does the color red evoke a lot of powerful memories for you? Would you say you have emotional attachments to other colors as well?
Red encompasses opposing associations like sweetness and seduction or war and good luck. I am drawn to its complex history and alarming nature. I somehow find it calming and yet full of surprise. It is my favorite color.
I read in a past article that Spartanburg, SC (your hometown) has a long history connected to textile manufacturing. Are there types of fabrics or materials you haven’t worked with yet but would like to in the future?
Yes, In The Touch Red I included a new series working with a local foundry. The process of taking my textile based works and making them hard with plaster, aluminum, and resin offered a new evolution for the work. Serpentine that was made in bonded aluminum can live outside as it is weather resistant. I am really excited to work with other metals and new forms of resin in the future.
There’s a bit of edginess, boldness and evocative feelings connected to the color red. The series title, Lady Danger, really hits the nail on the head! How did you come up with the title? Is this a departure from some of your other pieces that you’ve shown before?
A series evolved during my exploration of red titled Lady Danger inspired by my MAC lipstick. The daily ritual of applying red lipstick offers many interpretations. I was inspired by the way my lipstick evolves during different times of day. Lady Danger I, II, III, IIII, and V are all variations on the color perceived at different times of day. Starting with the brightest most saturated red and going into the deepest most evening shade of red. During the reception MAC cosmetics will sponsor an interactive artwork inviting viewers to color in a photo of my lips. The photograph is also included as a silver gelatin photograph in the exhibition titled Pout. Follow me on Instagram to see the final work! @chellisbaird
For The Touch of Red, you created a new shade of red with local suppliers in New York and Georgia. How did you come up with this new shade? Did you have an idea in mind of what you were looking to create?
Yes, I wanted to match the color of my lipstick and the way light changes it throughout different times of day.
On your website, you dedicate two sections to woven paintings and sculptural paintings. Can you explain the difference between the two? Would you say that The Touch of Red falls under one of these two categories?
Yes, the Touch of Red is a more sculptural aspect of my work. The woven paintings are more topical and tapestry. The sculptural works offer a wider range of motion and shape.
What do you hope that viewers will take away from this new exhibition?
A new experience of red!
American artist Chellis Baird blurs the intersection of painting, sculpture and textiles. Baird explores the elements of painting by reconstructing handwoven canvases from a unique perspective. Her bespoke process begins with woven structures as her base. Each canvas starts with neutral toned materials that are then painted, dyed and sculpted into dimensional brushstrokes. She creates tangled compositions through a series of twists, knots, and upcycled textiles. Baird’s background in fashion allows her to dress the canvas with imagination. Not unlike a garment, she uses color to emphasize the authenticity and body of each piece. Baird received her BFA in textiles from Rhode Island School of Design and studied studio art at the Art Students League in New York City. Born in Spartanburg, SC, Baird now lives and works in New York City.
Alexandra Israel graduated from Bates College in 2010, and has been working in PR ever since. A museum aficionado since her introduction to Jean Dominque Ingres’ portraits as a small child, she enjoys spending her free time at museums and finding off-the-beaten-track gallery shows. Alexandra is a freelance publicist, specializing in book publishing, lifestyle, and arts & culture clients. She has held positions at Penguin Book Group, Aperture Foundation, and Third Eye among others