With dimensionality akin to an assemblage of brush strokes or musculature, Chellis Baird’s textile-based works expand the medium of painting. Her most recent solo show, “The Touch of Red” at The National Arts Club, presents a collection of textile-based works and new limited-edition works.
With this solo show, Baird, who is 2022-23 NAC Artist Fellow, has entered into the next phase of her artistic practice, boldly experimenting with materials and seriality.
Baird’s method is driven by her desire to deconstruct the concept of a painting. Traditionally, paintings consist of woven fabric mounted on a wood frame, dressed in paint. Instead, Baird manipulates textiles by dyeing, draping, and twisting materials, using plaster and wire to structure the fabrics on birch panels. Then, as layers of monotone fabric build dimensionality, the traditional painting is turned inside out.
Baird addresses fiber artists’ common difficulty exploring multiple shades within the same work through this deconstruction. Rather than layering different tones of paint on top of her pieces, Baird embraces her medium of choice, homing in on particular colors for various collections of work. While black and white defined the artist’s previous solo exhibition “Meditative Motions” (on view at the Nevelson Chapel at Saint Peter’s Church), red unifies her current exhibition.
WHAT: “The Touch of Red: Chellis Baird.”
WHEN: March 21 – April 8, 2022
WHERE: National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, New York
Baird’s inspiration comes from “Lady Danger,” the artist’s favorite red lipstick from MAC. Red lipstick emboldens the wearer and often garners attention from others. The color is rich with contradiction and meaning, signifying rage and passion, malice and romance, longing and leadership. To explore the color, Baird left lip marks on Japanese cotton paper, returning the outline of her lips in her signature lipstick color to see how the shade would look different throughout the day. Showing photography for the first time, she has included three black and white photographs of the magnified lip marks installed as a triptych—the result is both sleek and playful.
“Everlasting Red,” the largest work in the show, towers over visitors. On a horizontal axis, the vertically twisting and interloping dyed textiles map out divergent threads of thought. Long, tendon-like strands of fabric afford each work a distinctly individual character. In “Smile,” the textile is draped across the canvas and raised on both sides, creating a loose and uplifting aura. By contrast, in “Lady Danger,” the material is tighter, tenser, and knotted. Baird’s ability to create drastically different feelings within works with similar materials, colors, and processes, demonstrates her expertise in carving new ways of expression for the textile medium.
Textiles have always been a significant part of Baird’s life. Her hometown in South Carolina was host to a thriving textile industry in the 19th century, of which remnants remain. Growing up, her experiences with architecture, family, and commerce spoke to the town’s relationship with textile manufacturing.