Art has always been a part of Eleanor Baugnies’ life. And conversely, her life has been an important part of her art. Though she says it’s often unconscious, the vocabulary of her work symbolizes themes drawn from her experience and embedded in her psyche.
“It comes from my mind and my heart and my soul,” says Baugnies. “It’s just a feeling.”
Baugnies’ love of art began in childhood. She attended Louise S. McGehee School where she took art classes from art teacher Tim Trapolin.
“Art was always my favorite class in school,” says the artist who divides her time between two artistically rich communities: New Orleans and the mountains of the Carolinas, where she’s near her father.
At home, Baugnies was surrounded by art. Her mother, the late gallery owner Wyndy Morehead, moved among artists and became a potter late in life. Her father, who worked with local chemical and shipping companies, turned his creative talents into a hobby of painting still lifes. Baugniess has worked in both mediums. After majoring in ceramics at Loyola and studying at Penland School of Crafts, an immersive program in North Carolina, she worked in clay. Today, she is skilled with both gel printmaking and watercolors. The common theme running through all of her pieces is her love of abstraction (20th -entury artists Kandinsky, Miro and Hilma af Klint are among her favorite artists). The textural ceramic vessels she creates are more decorative than functional. Her prints and paintings combine loose strokes of color and shimmer with faces or parts of faces (eyes, noses, mouths), and forms such as ladders, circles, squares and rectangles.
Baugnies’ most recent work is abstract while also being detailed and precise. An untitled series of small “paintings within a painting” has an architectural quality, once again drawn from her life. Memories of industrial sites along the Mississippi River and in France (where she lived for 10 years with her then-husband and their two children), and her interest in the juxtaposition of “nature and industry, modern and ancient, beautiful and not-beautiful, and crumbling and perfection” all informed the watercolor. Each of the factory-like images suggests a corrosive industrial landscape, yet they are rendered in aqueous blues and verdigris.
“In a crumbling world or view, you can always find something beautiful,” she says. “You just have to look.”
Baugnies rarely starts with a definitive idea or direction, preferring to let the materials work through her. She turns on the music and lets the paint take her where it will.
“I start with whatever color I’m looking at, I put it on the page and let it flow,” she says. “It speaks for itself. I’m just the manipulator.”