Sally K. Smith grew up in Utah where she spent a lot of time looking at mountains and sagebrush. Sally received her B.A. in music and human biology from Stanford University. Following college she worked in Berlin as a teacher and translator, then earned a law degree at the University of Utah. After working as a lawyer in San Francisco and Boston, she became a full time artist. Sally studied drawing and oil painting at the Cambridge Center Studio School in Massachusetts and printmaking at City College of San Francisco. Smith's work can be found in art collections worldwide including the Hanjin Shipping Company, Seoul, Korea, and private collections in Berlin, Cologne, Zurich, Boston, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
"I come to art from a broad educational and experiential background. Not surprisingly, my paintings and drawings cross a broad divide from figurative to abstract. This fluidity keeps me engaged and challenged. Moreover, I discover methods and approaches in my abstract art that, in turn, inform my figurative art. This discovery feeds in both directions, much like self-sufficient organic farming.
Materials play an important role in my abstract art. For example in my burn rate series I create charcoal with dollar bills invested in the burn rate project. The burn rate series questions the value of art, art investment, and money itself. In my calorie project, I create charcoal with measured food. I specify how many calories were burned to create each drawing, e.g. 112 calories of marshmallows, 180 calories of hamburger. These pieces tend to be more gestural (think cave painting), whereas the burn rate pieces are more orderly, often using stencils, patterns or rulers.
I created several series using charcoal from law books. Two of these pieces now hang in the law school where I earned my law degree. Another law book piece marks the morning after Trump’s election. Since 2016 I have created a robust series of political art. I experiment with sultry materials (e.g. Playboy magazines, the Art of the Deal, human pee and Vladimir Putin calendars) to create Agnes Martin calmness. By combining oil paint with handmade charcoal, I am able to create sublime and ordered dirtiness while listening to NPR.
I explored a series of charcoal kiln ruins using oil paint and charcoal made with juniper (the wood that was burned in the kilns). I continue to explore a series of paintings using charcoal made from Mormon hymn books. These are not meant to be political, but to celebrate my Mormon childhood. Some of them are influenced by Anni Albers and recall patterns and quilts. Mormon women meet Bauhaus women. I also created a series of drawings with charcoal from grapevines burned by the California wildfires. These drawings were sold to raise money for undocumented farm workers (since they do not qualify for FEMA).
With my conceptual charcoal pieces I am stealing and manipulating matter. In comparison, with my more figurative oil paintings, I am stealing images. I manipulate images from the world around me, and also from memories and old photographs. I also steal images from far away places where I have never been. I prefer images that are a bit blurred or distorted. For example, if I am drawn to a horizontal photograph, I will create a vertical painting. This forces me to discover and rework the elements that draw me to an image. Sometimes I combine several photographs to create an unreal perspective of an actual place. I also like to paint from old slides, particularly if there are strangers in the slides, or extremely light or dark blurry areas.
I want to create art that celebrates the world and grapples with reality. By maintaining a fluidity between the abstract and figurative world, I am able to sustain this challenge and to make new discoveries every day in my studio." Smith shows her work at Gallery 60six, San Francisco. She also sells her work internationally through Singulart, or you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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