By Pierson Brown
David Baird David Baird: A Survey The Priscilla Fowler Gallery
Gorgeous but disconnected, David Baird’s work melded into The Priscilla Fowler Gallery’s new space with ease. A collection of sculptures, paintings, and prints were placed throughout the entirety of the front room, each set accompanied by an explanation of the pieces and their objectives.
Beautiful and complex wooden towers are placed as the first thing you see when entering. On the left, “Tearing the Veil”, a series of abstract paintings with two stripes of movement, cut out words and circles, the sensation of rushing air. On the right, thin, wooden planks, piled vertically, jutting from the walls, were begging you to touch them in a piece titled, “Angels.” Smaller stacks of wood, some red, named “forty minus one,” looked a bit like bloodied bodies. Prints of birds rested among more geometric shapes, setting the natural against the man-made. “Same Ten Strings”, a series of automatic string prints, was an intriguing set with an interesting process. A more experimental sculpture, it was a bundle of metal wires that fell throughout the day, giving everyone who saw it an individual experience. A final series was composed of geometric shapes in grayscale and reminded me of one of those brain puzzles, adding a serene presence.
There was quite a bit of diversity in work and a large collection base to show from. Baird has stated that he paints three paintings every day, which is quite admirable. Overall, visually, it was a fine show. Great work, David.
Art is a process of communication. The visual medium is a stand-in for the artist, but the audience is just as important. Although the work itself was visually pleasing, the thesis felt disconnected. Baird included information plaques with each set, explaining the intended message. In doing so, he often failed to bridge the gap between speculation and articulation.
He has a message, but it is not yet clear in the actual execution. Perhaps this is because of the personal nature of his thesis, which seeks to recontextualize the works of the Bible in an attempt to uncover emotional truths rather than the literal stories.
Religion has historically been a great inspiration for gorgeous work and continues to be. However, when one’s stated goal is “an attempt to speculate, explore and capture the struggle and human emotion described in the text...”, it needs to be clear. In this case, the text is the Christian bible. As a person who spent most of my life in the church, I would never have guessed the religious feelings and fervor that his plaques suggest.
For a work to be a successful communication from artist to art to audience, secondary information should only be supplementary, an extra: a piece that enhances but is ultimately unnecessary, not a foundational block. The information plaques were certainly integral. The towers, the strongest set of works, represented a metaphorical tower of babel, an insurmountable challenge. Alone, the towers were meticulous and beautiful. However, the intended goal dwarfed the execution. They were simply too small to make the case.
Overall, I advise simply viewing the pieces as aesthetically pleasing and not worrying yourself over any deeper meaning in most pieces. Enjoy the intricacies of “Tower of Babel”, the chaotic yet rhythmic movements of “Same Ten Strings”, its worth a view to soak in the vibes and beauty but the underlying thesis left much to be explored.
David Baird was raised in Iowa City, Iowa, and benefited from the diverse thought and expression cultivated in a college town. The child of educators, Baird was encouraged in his creative pursuits from an early age. Baird has been a professional artist since 1990. His work has been exhibited in over 50 venues across the country including seven museums. He has had solo exhibitions in Paris, France and Mittersill, Austria. His work has won several awards.
Baird studied architecture at the University of Illinois, Champaign and received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 1987. From Champaign, Illinois, he moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he studied and worked for a Danish design firm. Upon his return to the United States, David was offered an assistantship at the University of Arizona, Tucson, which he accepted. There he studied art and architecture and obtained a Master of Architecture Degree in 1991. Since graduation Baird has published over 20 academic papers, lectured at a dozen major universities and has received major grants that have supported his architectural investigations. This work has been recognized by his peers, published extensively and given numerous awards.
David is currently a professor of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, College of Fine Arts which houses Nevada’s premier accredited design programs in Interior Architecture, Landscape Architecture & Planning and Architecture.
Pictures courtesy of LeMew Photography©.