Chellis Baird blurs the intersection of painting, sculpture and textiles. She explores the elements of painting by reconstructing handwoven canvases from a unique perspective.
Baird’s 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.
2020 Solo Exhibitions
Meditative Motions: Saint Peter’s Church Louise Nevelson Chapel through February 20
Kate Oh Gallery: April 9 – 19, New York City
Sager Braudis Gallery: June, Columbia, MO
Collaboration with Choreographer Abdul Latif: Baruch Performing Arts Center: March, Kips Bay, NY
2020 Group Exhibitions
Church of Heavenly Rest: January, curated Jim DeWoody
Equity Gallery, curated by Guy DeBare
Spring Break Art Fair, two person exhibit
How did you find yourself in the arts – or how did the arts find you?
I remember being around 5 or 6 years old and loving to paint, spending hours creating. My father is a graphic artist and I have many close relatives who are painters. I was fortunate to have a lot of support from my parents to help foster my talents.
Who has been a big influence to you in your career?
In addition to my family I absolutely love Barnett Newman’s use of scale and color. One of my favorite works by him is Vir Heroicus Sublimis at MOMA . He intended for the viewer to stand very close to this work and meet the painting almost as an equal encounter. I often think of scale in a similar format and want the work to have a bodily connection.
The first time I discovered Newman was for a project while working as a Fashion Designer. I was asked to go see his work and was drawn to Onement I. It hit me like lighting and made me rethink everything I was creating at the time.
I also love seeing Newman’s work with Judd because they both extend past the typical depth of a painting. Judd’s Soho studio was previously a textile factory and I see loom and thread like shadows in his stacks. It makes me wonder if the shadows of his studio are submerged within the shadows of his work.
My current solo exhibition, Meditative Motions, at Saint Peter’s Church has a metal cross on the outside of the church. It was a donated gift in honor of some of the congregation from Newman’s wife.
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
I spend more time looking at the work or a piece I just completed. I use each piece to inform the next. There is always endless opportunities to take the work further. I would say the hardest part is choosing which direction and then I ask myself: If this was the last piece I ever made what do I want to say?
How do you define success?
Completing a work that brings me satisfaction and others joy and satisfaction.
What do you hope your work communicates?
My hope is that audiences leave feeling inspired and grounded. Currently we live in a vortex tech web that can be all-encompassing and gravity-defying. My goal is to immerse the viewer in the tactile and human hand and spirit. I hope the abstract nature of the work gives the viewer enough space to fill in their emotions, or maybe release them. I hope they really stop, look, question, and reenter their lives with inspiration.
What has been an important lesson you have learned during your career?
To never give up and to build from my strengths. Also to do the easy things first and then the hard things. We also can’t do anything alone and it’s important to find peers and mentors.
Finally, what advice might you give to your younger self?
To not be so hard on yourself and to focus on maintaining balance. It is important to have hobbies and healthy relationships.