The Earth Below, an exhibition of new work by North Texas artist Mark Smith, will be on display May 5-June 16 at William Campbell Contemporary Art. An opening reception will be held Saturday, May 5, 6:00-8:00 p.m. The show will include paintings on wood panel and works on paper from Smith's The Earth Below Suite, so titled to describe not only a group of paintings and drawings, but also the artist's meticulous research, observation, and manipulation-all of which serve to generate intellectual and visual metamorphoses.
"Our planet is being mapped, photographed and documented as we speak. The picture that emerges is an ever-changing patchwork quilt, a world that is spectacular, fragile and hopefully resilient."
A long-running interest in scientific processes, along with a concern about the ecology and humans' negative effects on the planet, inform Smith's work. To that end, his paintings involve much more than a straightforward application of pigment to surface; they comprise the literal and visual transformation from photographic image to digitally manipulated drawing to hand-rendered painting. They are a contemporary amalgamation of science, technology, and the artist's hand.
Smith begins his process by studying satellite images of the Earth's surface. He then uses specialized software and digital drawing media to manipulate, deconstruct, and rebuild the images as nonrepresentational, abstract fields. He often incorporates digital samples of his earlier paintings as well. Coupled with the new imagery, these studies preserve visual matter while creating additional layers of history and referencing a metamorphosis-both on the Earth's surface and in the artwork. The final paintings represent Smith's "spontaneous responses" to these carefully researched and constructed drawings. The artist builds the impulsive yet complex paintings by applying multiple layers of highly saturated color atop plaster-coated hardwood. By playing with the consistency of the paint, he creates a sense of slow movement and continuous flow. Smith applies the paint with brushes, blades, water jets, and hot air, mimicking geological forces and erosion-a technique that parallels the artist's response to Earth's physical changes, both natural and manmade.
Western Vistas and Twin Rivers exemplify Smith's multifaceted interest in science and aesthetics. Visual allusions to the satellite images remain, now transformed into delicate, colorful layers that protrude and recede, allowing the viewer to glimpse the history of each mark. Organic ribbons of color travel throughout the space as well, weaving in and out, and unifying the layered, segmented planes of color. A nod to geological strata, these segments also display an aesthetic fusion of art, nature, and technology.
Just as each painting contains many physical layers, so too does Smith's methodology entail various levels of observation, reclamation, and finally, transformation. The final pieces are, in fact, visual catharses/syntheses for the artist's ecological concerns, technological savvy, and intellectual interests.
A portion of the proceeds from exhibition sales will benefit the Clearity Foundation, an organization that provides patients with molecular profiling of ovarian cancer tumors in an effort to find the best drugs for treatment of ovarian cancer. The foundation brings personalized medicine to ovarian cancer patients at no cost to the patient, in addition to maintaining a database to help other patients. For more information, visit www.clearityfoundation.org.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Mark Smith has exhibited work extensively throughout North Texas and across the United States, including one-person and group shows in Fort Worth, Dallas, Arlington, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Santa Fe, and New York City. Recently, he was included in a group exhibition in Nagoya, Japan.
His work has been featured in numerous publications, among them Art in America, New American Paintings, the Star-Telegram, Fort Worth Weekly, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer, and the Times-Picayune. He has also been heard in segments on radio stations KERA, WRR, and WBAP.
Smith's work appears in various public and private collections. Corporate collections include Belo, Citicorp, Chase Manhattan Bank, Neiman-Marcus, Nokia, Sony, the Tandy Corporation, and Texas Instruments. Additional collections include Austin College, Boston University, the City of Denton, Grinnell College, KERA, the Tanglewood Foundation, Tulane University, and the University of North Texas.
Mark Smith currently serves as a professor of art at Austin College in Sherman, Texas, where he has taught since 1986. He earned an MFA from Queens College of the City University of New York, and a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute. He has been represented by William Campbell Contemporary Art since 1985.