(L-R) Silent Enigma, 2015; Windows in the Sky #73, 2014

Matt Baumgardner's Soulful Explorations

Updated October 19, 2022 at 4:40 p.m.

A short drive over the Talmadge Bridge and into South Carolina takes you to the  beautiful 20,000-acre community of Palmetto Bluff - home to FLOW Gallery and Workshop (Simply tell the gate guard, you are visiting the art gallery in Wilson Village). Trust me, it is worth a visit.

The Arts Initiative at Palmetto Bluff provides a diverse curation of artists, craftsmen, musicians, chefs, and makers, and was established as a program to inspire and enrich lives through art in all its forms. FLOW Gallery and Workshop both showcases the Initiative’s Artists in Residence program and displays a variety of work by southern artists.

For a brief window of time – October 26 to November 6 – the Arts Initiative is partnering with the estate of American contemporary artist Matt Baumgardner (1955-2018) in presenting The Art of Matt Baumgardner: Channeling Universal and Spiritual Planes, a selection of his paintings, works on paper and birch plywood.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Baumgardner earned his MFA at UNC in Chapel Hill in 1982, subsequently spending most of his professional career in NYC. His work on plywood, employing his signature medium of “mud” ( a thick paste created with gypsum and powdered pigments  applied in multiple layers of grids and symbols) won him a Visual Arts Fellowship in Painting by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1993. Several of these pieces will be in the Palmetto Bluff show.

click to enlarge Matt Baumgardner's  Soulful Explorations
Gouache #2, Series 2, 2016

From Baumgardner’s early career through his 22-year tenure in NYC, his artwork was exhibited in 14 solo and more than 30 group shows. In 2006, the artist relocated to rural Travelers Rest, SC, where he designed and built a live/work studio on an acre of land, a serene haven in which he created work for a decade. His paintings are now in the permanent collection of the Greenville County Museum of Art and the Gibbes Museum of Art  in Charleston.

Baumgardner described his work as imparting “a transformative experience that resonates with my longings to channel universal and spiritual planes; I want to transport the spirit, to remind us that we are perfect beings passing through a transient world.” 

 And Riley Murphy, personal representative for his estate, says she hopes visitors to the gallery “will resonate with Baumgardner’s transcendent soulful explorations, inspired by his love of nature, in this special venue.”

Baumgardner’s body of work synthesizes two disparate approaches - free-form mark-making     and a formalized grid based on spatial frequency. My fellow art history nerds will recognize that his inspiration includes a wellspring of sources, from petroglyphs to cubism – and art world luminaries including Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Jackson Pollock,  Cy Twombly, and others. Indeed, Baumgardner’s process was to study the classics and old masters, absorb the successful modernists, and then strike out in new directions to express a unique vision honed by his modern lifestyle and experience.

Riley Murphy continues, “ How refreshing to delve into a palpable visual experience which ignites the imagination, transporting us to deeper levels of being, contrasted with the digital images that dominate modern life. I am delighted to share a glimpse into the breadth of Matt Baumgardner’s creative genius with artworks from different phases of his career.”

The Art of Matt Baumgardner: Channeling Universal and Spiritual Planes  will be on exhibit and available for purchase from October 28 – November 6, 2022 at FLOW Gallery & Workshop, 76B Boat House Street, Bluffton (in Wilson Village on the May River at Palmetto Bluff).

Published October 18, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.


Beth Logan

Born and raised in Northern Ireland, Beth Logan had a career in healthcare HR and marketing. An artist and former gallery director, she serves on the board of nonprofit ARTS Southeast and has a passion for showcasing Savannah’s arts community, travel, oil painting, and cocktails!
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