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.
"I am a thief. I create many types of art, but all of my art contains elements of appropriation. Sometimes it is the matter I create with. Other times it is the images I draw from.
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 series, 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 or rulers.
I have created several series using charcoal from law books. Two of these pieces now (appropriately) hang in the law school where I earned my law degree. Another law book piece, depicting the interior of the Library of Congress, 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, and human pee) to create a sense of order and calmness. A recent series, called Disinformation, combines Vladimir Putin calendars, vodka, and plants from Facebook’s Menlo Park campus. I create patterns that allow us to see the nakedness of the charcoal as it is woven together with oil paint or thematically related charcoal. These pieces are at once decorative and mysterious, meditative and dirty, as if we have walked into someone’s private space or opened their private diary.
With my more figurative oil paintings, I am also appropriating and manipulating. However, unlike in my handmade charcoal series, I am not stealing matter, but images. I reclaim images from the world around me, and also from vintage photographs and movies. Another source of images is far away places, along with their mystique.
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 like to exaggerate the elements of nostalgia and mystery. Sometimes my images are so heavily distorted and pieced together that they become abstract. Other times my images place us squarely in 60’s Madrid or 70’s Berlin.
I 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. Recent work and events can be followed on instagram.