LADY IN RED! Emerging Contemporary Artist Chellis Baird is One to Put on Your Radar

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.

Her solo exhibition, The Touch of Red, Baird explores the complex significance of the color red. Baird expands upon her signature techniques of sculpture, painting, and textiles within the spectrum of red. Much like the versatility of Baird’s work, the color red conjures a wide range of symbols, feelings, and history. Including the contrasting emotions of love to pain and symbols such as good luck, war, and seduction. The fiery color commands reactions that are both visceral and beautiful. Historically it was once associated with baby boys instead of blue and is now traditionally considered feminine. Red can also excite or scare. It indicates temperature; it needs no introduction. Red lingers. It can be sweet or spicy. The
artist is drawn to the color’s ability to simultaneously entice and intimidate while being a color associated with warmth and affection.

Tell us about a little about yourself, your background.

I am from a small textile town in South Carolina and was deeply inspired by textiles and art from a young age. My family is full of artists, and I was encouraged to pursue a career in design. After studying at Rhode Island School of Design I moved to New York in 2005 and worked as a fashion designer for over a decade. I traveled to Paris, Italy and worked with the best fabric mills in the world. My love for fabric continued to grow and evolve which led me to blend painting and sculpture into one medium.

When were you first introduced to art and when did you decide you wanted to be an artist?

I remember being about five years old and painting with my father. He is a retired graphic artist, photographer, and guitarist. We were always making and creating things together. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I knew I wanted to pursue art in a more full time capacity. I had always thought of myself as an artist and had a strong drawing and painting practice even during my fashion career. It was during a trip to MOMA where I was visiting a Barnett Newman work titled Onement, I and I had a breakthrough. From that point on all I wanted to make was art.


How did your show, A Touch of Red, come to be with the National Artist Club?

I was given a tour of the newly renovated galleries by the director, Ben Hartley and fell in love with the space. I have always loved the National Arts Club’s history and incredible support of art in many disciplines. Red is my favorite color and I was seeking a space that would present the work in an internal way almost like a core. The gallery I selected is in the most central aspect of the galleries offering a warmth and intimacy that highlights the work.

What inspires your art?

Dance is a big inspiration for me. I have been an avid dancer since age five and still take ballet classes weekly in NYC. I see dance as drawing in space. The theatrical gestures combined with rhythm, heart, and skill inform my compositions. Dance taught me self discipline, choreography, musicality, and stage presence. Artists are often told to “be extreme” and I find the dramatic nature of dance to help me articulate that perception through gesture. Gestures are so abstract yet the most universal language. Everyone knows what “hi” looks like but to draw it maybe seemingly abstract.

Are there any artists that have influenced your works?

Yes, in addition to my family I would say Louise Nevelson for her use of light, shadow, the monochrome, as well as her influence from Modern dance. Lynda Benglis’ use of materiality and exploration of sculptural relief. Jack Whitten for his creativity with paint, jazz influence, and breathless color palate. The color field movement is deeply inspiring. Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Barnett Newman, and Rothko to name a few. Donald Judd. I also love the photography of Irving Penn, Guy Bourdin, and Sam Haskins. The Nederlands Dance Theatre, New York City Ballet, and the Crazy Horse Paris companies are so inspiring!

Can you tell us about the creative process in your latest series A Touch of Red?

Red encompasses opposing positions 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. A series evolved during my exploration of red titled Lady Danger inspired by my MAC lipstick. The daily ritual of this touch of red offers many interpretations. During the reception MAC cosmetics will sponsor an interactive artwork inviting viewers to color in a photo of my lips. Follow me on Instagram to see the final work! @chellisbaird

What would you consider your biggest accomplishment to be in your artistic career so far?

My solo museum show at the Myrtle Beach Art Museum in South Carolina and my recent fellowship award at the National Arts Club.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Do what is best for the work. Trust your gut. Go where the love is.

What would you like viewers to take away from your art?

A new experience for the color red!

Where can we find more information on your artwork, buy it or see it in person?

Sales inquiries please email Heather Zises:

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Instagram: @chellisbaird

Current work display:

National Arts Club: