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‘in the morning, trotsky’: European exhibit features UL Lafayette professor’s art

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“In the Morning, Trotsky smells to me of warm buttermilk, lavender soap, and well trodden, well-aged cedar floor boards.”

Over the years, Barcelona’s Can Framis Museum has displayed work from artists like internationally acclaimed filmmaker Pere Portabella and Spanish painter Agustí Puig.

But now listed among the Spanish museum’s ranks is Jamie Baldridge, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette multimedia art professor.

Baldridge was selected along with 84 other artists from around the world to show a piece in the “Electric and Distant” exhibition. Since January, the artist’s photographic composition, “in the morning, trotsky, serie ‘playing with arsenic,’” has been part of a contemporary photographic collection that explores the theme of synesthesia, a condition in which one type of sensory stimulation evokes the sensation of another, like smelling a sound or tasting a color.

“It is said that the sense of smell is most closely tied to memory and for me this is most certainly the case,” he writes in the description. “A whiff of cheap, but respectable, department store perfume can transport me back thirty years to the comfort of my grandmother’s parlor, while the more bohemian notes of patchouli and sandalwood will instantly bring to mind the summer I first fell in love and the small, moonlit breasts of my lover as she snored softly beside me.”

It was almost 20 years ago when the artist migrated away from traditional photography and started researching ways to create photographs that broke the “bounds of reality,” while still managing to look realistic.

Like most of Baldridge’s work, the photo began with a model propped in front of a “blank canvas,” or a green screen in the artist’s studio. Once the initial image was taken, the rest of the composition — the room, the lighting, the illusion — was digitally added and altered mostly by using a program called Autodesk Maya.

During the process, Baldridge also reached out to a friend who works for the Office of Naval Research to better understand fluid dynamics, which is a way of digitally simulating fluid systems, so he could give some realism to the milk and threads featured in the photo.

The final piece took a year to construct.

The professor, who has been vocal about his own struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, said creating art that pulls from his own anxiety and existential dread is a cathartic way of dealing with the pressures he feels on a daily basis. 

“My work is like this knot of thread in my mind, trying to untangle it,” he stated. “The odd part is that I’m not this unhappy person, mainly because I think I’m able to channel it and construct pieces around this interior world between my ears.

“Art has always been great for giving voice to the things we can’t talk about or won’t talk about or aren’t sure how to talk about.”

Baldridge's work will be on display until the end of May.

(Photo credit: Jessica Manafi/OVPRIED) Jamie Baldridge speaks at the November 2017 Communities of Interest about how his own struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder has affected his art.

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