The Deaf Community lost a very special friend recently with the death of Chuck Baird.
Chuck showing some of that warm humor for which he was known
Chuck was a brilliant Deaf artist especially known for his skill in incorporating aspects of Deaf Culture (particularly sign language) into his artwork.
One of Chuck’s paintings,
showing the ASL sign for “cat” (signifying the whiskers)
He passed beyond the realm on February 10th after a valiant battle with cancer.
His death has left a void in our hearts that will never be filled. He was a truly beautiful person who was loved by many. Not only was he an excellent artist, he was also a skilled actor, who once performed with the National Theater of the Deaf.
While perusing Chuck’s website - http://www.chuckbairdart.com/ – where one can see several examples of his artwork, I came across a painting of his that truly made my heart sing.
It is a painting that so beautifully represents what this blog and my life are all about…the merger of my identities as a Pagan and follower of an earth-based spirituality, and as a Deaf person.
“Homage to Mother Earth” by Chuck Baird, 2007
Here in Chuck’s own words he explains this painting:
Many years ago when I was on commercial flight, I pulled out the airline magazine and found the fantastic article that showed the wide variety of the corn raised in North, Central, and South America. I was dumbfound by the beauty of diversity in colors and size. The kernels seen in the opening are in rhythmic and organic form with the pleasure for the eye as the music to the ear. The memory of the image often came back, enough itching me to paint the corn on a canvas in a symbolic composition.
With the affirmation for the America Indians as growing up the Midwest, more from the frequent visits in Sedona and recently attended the National Museum of American Indian in Washington DC, next to the capitol, absorbing it as I circled down the entire museum, strongly connected, especially, with the Mother Earth.
As you see on the medicine wheel, the cardinal direction with our manual alphabet; E for east, S for south, W for west, and N for north in the order which the Native American spiritual leaders often begins any ceremony with the blessing, faces to each of point of direction around the full circle. On the corners outside the wheel, they were replicated the hierogram painted on the rocks found in the Southwest region; (clockwise from upper left corner) Sun, Rain, Crop of Corn, and Harvest following re-seed the plant as the Native American’s chief nutriment.
The center should be turtle or fire depending on which tribe is, however, with an artist’s licence with respect, the row of corns was put in the center representing the Mother Earth.
Weeks after I completed the painting, I noticed the corn in the painting have the resemblance of vulva. In the ancient, it was seen on either tree trunk, rock, or flower as sacred sign for the fertility, the vital part of Human Life.
I couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you, Chuck.
I did notice on his website that copies of this painting were available, although I do not know if this will continue since his passing. I do plan to inquire into such, and if possible obtain a copy to hang in a place of honor in my new house.
I did not know Chuck well, although I did meet him a few times while I lived in Kansas City. He was always a very nice person. I do remember when I participated in a play about Helen Keller, that he came to one of the performances and was very complementary and supportive of this amateur’s theatric efforts.
Godspeed, my friend. You shall be missed, but through your art your life will be celebrated for generations to come.
If you would like to leave a few words of remembrance about Chuck for his family and friends, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Such words can be healing for all, and bring us together in our loss.