Melinda R. Smith
June 13-July 6, 2013
Reception June 13, 7-9pm
In conjunction with Downtown Art Walk
Melinda R. Smith came late to visual art through the medium of poetry. It was while designing the cover for her collection of poems Tiny Island that she became entranced with visual imagery. Deeply inspired by the bright, polychromatic landscape of urban Los Angeles, Melinda explores the liminal regions between reality and fantasy, using tropes strongly reminiscent of childhood play. With her background in poetry and theater, she conceives of her pictures as staged theatrical scenes that tell archetypal stories whose roots reach for the dark core of memory and truth.
In the artist's words:
"When I quit writing in order to work in a visual medium a couple years ago, I immediately started putting words in the pictures. I felt like I was engaging in a kind of playful trickery, where I was tricking people into reading my words by getting them to look at a picture, because pictures are so easy to look at, versus reading text. After all, we’re pretty much living in a post-literate world.
Being a writer felt so…increasingly irrelevant. I’m still in love with words, though. Being a poet is to have the ability and desire to boil things down to their essence. To me, using symbols and color is an even purer form of this—a purer form of poetry. I think art-making in any form is always a process of paring down, and paring away, getting ever closer to the essence of a thing.
I made the “Deadline” pictures before I went into the hospital for surgery for the cancer. To me the images are doll-like, a little unlife-like—images hovering between real and unreal. The “Shadow” series was an attempt at sublimating some of my bad impulses, a recognition of my own capacity for destructive and terrible behavior. In most of those pictures I cut off the shoes/feet in order to give her the appearance of having hooves. I started that in “Deadline.” This series is very archetypal. In the recent bathtub series, I was basically trying to put my painting to work, so I photographed elements of my paintings and drawings and created brushes from them in Photoshop, and I started calling it (to myself) stamp art. When I needed/wanted an image for a picture, I'd paint it so that I could photograph it so that I could make a brush out of it, etc. I feel everything I do and put into my work has to be self-generated.
Anyway, this work is very influenced by Mexican folk art…. I see myself going further in that direction. I’ve just started exploring the Mexican retablos tradition—I love how the words are incorporated into the pictures. They're so textual and so colorfully illustrative at the same time. I’ve done some similar work with some of my playwriting—actually making pictures that represent scenes in some of my plays. Some of that early work is in my old digiart pictures on my website. My earliest leg series is “Tired Broad.” I wanted the pictures to look like Mexican Loteria cards. I love the colorful, graphic idiom. I basically want everything I do to tell a story."