Briefly describe the work you do.
I consider my process to be one of gathering and disseminating information, rooted in the paper scraps and ephemera of our consumer culture. As I create and gather this material/information I begin combining this seemingly unrelated material into an almost assemblage like form. Once one of these assemblages is created I begin another in response to the first. I try to create a conversation between the two assemblages; whether this is through imagery or solely based in aesthetic color choices. After the two assemblages exist, I hand cut them with a razor blade and straightedge into strips. These strips are kept organized and then the two separate images/collages are woven together creating the final work. A complex, tapestry-like construct, made up of hundreds of interwoven strips of discarded consumer packaging, original traditional and non-traditional prints, gouache paintings, smoke transfers and other paper ephemera. Which similarly make use of (and, in a sense, refine) pop culture imagery.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
Growing up in a small town in north central Indiana where craft is appreciated has given me an innate interest in art versus craft, and the dialog inherent to that discussion. As a child I always admired and watched my mother create beautiful things. The blending of traditional craftsmanship with modern technology surrounded me. My family also owned a liquor store and I was inundated by the resulting consumer packaging at an early age. I found the process intriguing of how my father would display the products to the masses in organized rows and detailed color grid patterns; consequently making me acutely aware of peoples’ brand loyalty. My fascination with the system of creating product for consumer consumption is also continually fueled by my wife who currently works in packaging design.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
The gathering of materials, ideas, inspiration and etc., happens anytime-anywhere. Allowing oneself to be open to inspiration from the innate and mundane of this man-made and natural world is a huge draw for me. When it comes to the creation of my work – the true tactile creation part of my art production – my studio practice then follows along the lines of what is considered the traditional.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
The older I become the more I realize life is a series of ever changing roles that we step in and out of. In relation to my art it would be the role of entrepreneur. Besides the actually creation of the work as my main focus the logistics of the “business of art”; crating and shipping work for shows and keeping up with communication. Learning from and being open to these new roles as they pass through my life has only had an overall positive impact on my work and professional development.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I like to keep business hours in my studio, a true 9-6 work day in relation to the production of my work. This schedule changes with the ebb and flow of daily life but for the most part it is what I maintain when possible. However the many steps of gathering information, inspiration, sketch booking and other such avenues of my creative process have no set hours. Much like the time required with each work/show is different.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
It is more of a refinement in the expression of my conceptual intent within my work that has mostly changed over the last five years. My work always seems to circle around similar topics and chooses to express itself through varied mediums at different times. However there is always a thread of continuum throughout my work but the change and evolution of my work over time is a natural part of artistic expansion.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Much of my inspiration are these disjointed, unaligned interests that wax and wane over time. There have been instructors in my past which made a great impact. Setting a tone of professionalism in the approach of my work I still carry with me. My Mother and her creation of beautiful objects which always filled me with awe and inspired me to create; disliking most of what our consumer driven world creates but being astonished by the breadth of human creativity; “Pop” culture of yesterday and today, and the natural world and its unending complexity of form and variety. Really the list is long and ever expanding.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Yes, definitely. However being an artist in my life is a solid unbroken line. I feel myself like many artists out of either academic pursuits or pure survival have been pulled in a multitude of directions. I have been a landscaper, bartender, tinsmith, retail employee, prepator, teacher, and on & on… but always still an artist. Allowing me to drift from that solid unbroken line is what allows me to explore other pursuits of life.
Smith received his M.F.A. and Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Cincinnati. His B.A. is from Hanover College in Indiana and he also studied fine arts at the University of Wollongong in Australia. Smith frequently conducts visiting artist seminars, has received numerous grant awards and scholarships, and completed a residency and exhibition in Budapest, Hungary and Paducah, Kentucky. He has been featured in many prominent solo exhibitions, private and public collections and has been selected twice for “New American Paintings Juried Exhibition-in-Print.” Smith is currently the Working Artist in Residence at Tiger Lily Press in Cincinnati, OH.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.