Barry McNamara  |   Published January 13, 2020

A Spontaneous Exploration of Ambidextrous Art

Exhibit of abstract paintings by art professor Brian Baugh created by artist’s both hands.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – The exhibit by Monmouth faculty member Brian Baugh that’s opening this week in the College’s Everett Gallery is titled “New Work.” Alternative titles for his display of colorful abstract paintings could have been “Ambidextrous Art” or “Spontaneous Exploration.”

Brian Baugh art. The exhibit, created last fall by Baugh during a sabbatical from teaching, will open Jan. 17 in the gallery, which is located on the upper level of Hewes Library. An opening reception will be held at 3 p.m., with Baugh speaking about his work at 3:30 p.m. The exhibit, reception and gallery talk are all free and open to the public.

One of the subjects Baugh will address is an unexpected obstacle he had to overcome.

“I injured my shoulder and had to switch to painting left-handed for the last month of my sabbatical,” he said. “I was surprised that I could do it. Working with your non-dominant hand slows you down a bit because you really have to be patient to get that hand to put the paint where you want it to go.”

Although the going was slow, Baugh had the time thanks to his break from teaching.

“Sabbatical gave me the opportunity to work in the studio every day,” he said. “This is a dream come true for a painter. I scheduled an exhibition to take place at the end of sabbatical because the goal of filling up a huge gallery with new work really helped me focus, and an exhibition is a chance for an artist to take stock of their work and decide what direction to pursue.”

Baugh has previously exhibited several different types of art, including ceramic sculptures, handmade musical instruments, realist paintings, and expressive, abstract heads, but he focused on abstract painting for his latest works.

“I have made abstract paintings for the last few years, but I wanted to see what would happen if I put all my energy into this one type of art,” he said. “While I did occasionally work in realism during my sabbatical, I chose to leave those pieces out of this exhibition so that viewers can also focus on the energy that comes from purely formal abstract paintings.”

Baugh said that energy is seen through color and “big movements” of shape and line. Removing recognizable imagery eliminates associations with memories and, he said, “hopefully leaves viewers open to new experiences. … I want the viewer to be able to get involved by playing the same game I play: finding forms that rhythmically repeat and forms that are created of smaller forms with less obvious connections.”

Baugh creates different textural effects within the same painting through his use of a palette knife, bristle brushes, and small, smooth brushes.

“The painting is a process by which the final object is made through spontaneous layers that slowly converge into the series of forms that make up the whole of the painting,” he said. “This is how I define my abstract work: spontaneous exploration.”

Promoted to full professor in 2017, Baugh received his BFA from the University of Montevallo (Ala.) in 1999 and his MFA three years later from the University of Florida.

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