When Matthew Clay Baumgardner was asked if he considered artwork his career, Matt said he “didn't have it in him to see it as a profession.” His professional goals were to create experience for his viewers and keep himself busy creating. Baumgardner lived a life based in routine, spirituality, expression and a passion for art. When Baumgardner began a piece of art he started with a concept such as canvas size, or color palette and let his experience with the canvas dictate the rest of the painting.
Matthew Clay Baumgarder was born on February 5th, 1955 in Columbus, OH. His family moved around numerous times during his childhood. After graduating from Upper Arlington High School in 1973, Baumgardner moved to Greenville, SC to begin his art training under Carl Blair, Emery Bopp and Darell Koons. During this time in the Carolinas, he received purchase awards from the Mint Museum in Charlotte, the Spartanburg Art Museum, and had a painting chosen by New York Times art critic, Roberta Smith, for the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston for its 30th Annual GSCA Exhibition. In 1982, Baumgardner graduated with his MFA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His training there was under the artist, critic, and novelist, Peter Plagens.
Baumgarder’s art career reached new heights when he relocated to New York City after graduation. His artwork underwent a visual shift that strayed from his early abstract expressionist style and became much more minimalistic. It was in NYC where he adopted the grid motif that has become a staple identifier of Baumgardner’s art. The grid motif took its inspiration from the layout and the skyscrapers in the city. However, the pearlescent grid that Baumgardner created was meant to capture the light and represent a portal or box of energy within his works. His work also started to appear in solo shows all across the country from Florida to Arizona. While in New York, Matt raised four daughters who were his pride and joy. Matt loved children and found his own inspiration in his children’s creativity, He saved every single piece of his daughter's childhood artwork. Matt also taught many art classes and workshops throughout his career, especially to children. He was a natural teacher.
After going through a divorice, Baumgarder moved back to South Carolina in 2006. He settled down in Traveler’s Rest, SC and built his dream studio there. The greenery and mountainous landscape of the Appalachians was the perfect location for Baumgardner to build his studio. For him, nature went hand in hand with his spirituality. At his Travelers Rest studio, Baumgarder planted eucalyptus trees, swam in the pool, looked at bugs through his microscope and just sat with the outdoors. Matt swam everyday and before he jumped in the pool he would pray. The outdoors were not just a place of recreation, but a palace for meditation. Matt’s time in Travelers Rest was ideal for the internalization he needed to create his best artwork.
Baumgarder created, entertained, and lived in his studio until his death in November of 2018. Despite the chronic pain he suffered in the last several years of his life, his deeply intermeshed relationship with art, God, and nature created a persistent energy in his studio. This energy and presence continues to live on in Baumgardner’s work today as well as in his studio which still sits in Travelers Rest.