For more than 20 years, David Baird has kept a meditative practice. Every day he completes a journal entry, spending anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours on the effort. But rather than scribbling thoughts in a diary, Baird makes three pieces of art.
“When I enter my studio, pull out a sheet of paper and start marking it, I bring everything to the table,” Baird says of his daily habit. “I bring my experiences, knowledge and the skills I have developed over the years.” For example, his “Hot Mess” series of mixed-media journal entries are nine seemingly randomly inkblots that are nonetheless exceedingly satisfying to the mind’s eye. The mixed-media collages in the “Triangle Study” series could be simple geometric forms, but they also carry the essence and energy of exuberant dancing figures.
A selection of these visual journals are on display alongside sculptures, paintings, monoprints and mixed-media creations in an expansive solo show at Priscilla Fowler Fine Art though October 26. Covering a 15-year span of Baird’s career, the survey features 93 works, 38 of which were featured recently in a show at the Dadian Gallery at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
In addition to being an artist, Baird is an architect. He’s a professor of architecture at UNLV and the co-founder and design director of +one Design & Construction. For Baird, the two disciplines are not separate. “I see these two activities existing on the same spectrum—coming from the same source,” Baird says.
The Judeo-Christian religion has been a huge influence in Baird’s art, but don’t expect traditional Bible illustrations. Baird explores religious themes via abstract art. His “Tower of Babel” series, for example, are three-and-a-half-foot-tall wooden constructions that combine his architectural and artistic skills. His wooden “Angels” series hangs on the wall, suspended between the ground and ceiling, like messengers moving between heaven and earth.
Baird’s father was an ordained Presbyterian minister who taught religion at the University of Iowa rather than lead a congregation. His mother was raised in a strict Christian sect, only to later reject much of her upbringing.
“I was raised in a unique environment saturated with critical discussions about religion,” Baird says. “I had a mother that never said no and a father that demanded clear thinking—not a bad foundation for an artist.”
For Baird, the crux of his art lies in the act of interpreting biblical texts. “My father taught me to cherish ideas, especially those contained in a text,” Baird says. “Humans are a messy, inconsistent proposition, but a text can be dissected, analyzed and interpreted objectively.”
DAVID BAIRD: A SURVEY Through October 26; Tuesday-Thursday, noon- 6 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Priscilla Fowler Fine Art, 719-371-5640.