Matt Baumgardner, who lived and worked in Travelers Rest, was as open as he was closed—as layered as his work reflects. Since Baumgardner’s death, his estate has worked with Furman University to create an opportunity for students to learn about the prolific artist’s life and work. Under the eye of adjunct professor Dr. Diane Fischer, this year’s class of eight students in Curatorial Issues and Practices has created an exhibition featuring 17 of Baumgardner’s paintings, as well as personal items and ephemera. Fischer explains how the course study and exhibit was arranged. “We have four major sections of Matt’s life and career in the exhibition: Early Life, New Inspiration in New York, National Endowment for the Arts Award and Windows in the Sky, and Travelers Rest.” It’s an overview of his career and how innate his spirituality, mood, energy, thoughts, and feelings were to the works he created.

Brandon Barney, one of Fischer’s students, explains, “The use of Baumgardner’s grids and glyphs reminds me that everything is not always as it seems. Everyone has a multilayered personality. [He] also sheds light on the importance of process—the marks on the canvas are an outer representation of his thoughts and emotions during this process. Hidden glyphs and bold grids show a conflict between a part of the artist that wants to hide and a part that wants to be seen.” 

The layers of his “mud”—his paste-like pigmented gypsum medium that he carved into, adding and subtracting at the same time—are now open only for us to interpret. A mile in his shoes wouldn’t even come close, but at least those too are part of the exhibit.

Matt Baumgardner’s work will be on view January 19–February 19 at the Thompson Art Gallery for students and faculty only. For the public, there will be a Zoom opening on January 28, 6:30–7:30pm. To attend, RSVP to furmanart@furman.edu. The exhibition will be available to view online, January 19–February 19, via baumgardnerarchives.com. For inquiries, contact the Baumgardner estate at baumgardnerart@gmail.com. 

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