By Kyra Smith-Cullen
February 7, 2013
Students, faculty, and Lock Haven residents gathered in Sloan for the opening of a new exhibit and for a chance to speak to artist Nelson Smith on February 4.
Smith uses seemingly random and insignificant objects, calming hues and geometrical designs as the elements of his art. But for him, each aspect has a meaning.
“I see the land as a language. It tells us things in subtle ways,” Smith said. “Like, ‘build here, don’t build here’.”
Environment plays an important role in the exhibit, impacting Smith in different ways. Many of his color choices are inspired by his home in Kansas, with its abundance of fields. Portland also appears in Smith’s decisions to use pencils and the appearance of ovals.
“The penciled objects are ‘ghosts’, there is an echo about them” explained Smith. “It seems that every hotel downtown claims to be haunted and ovals are centers of energy, encouraging intuition.”
“He symbolizes landscape and interprets it in a different way,” said Agnes Tholley, a sophomore majoring in health sciences. “I liked how he utilizes colors in his artwork, but my favorite piece was ‘Polite Vertical Emission Adjustment’.”
Smith’s favorite works are the ones based on his trip to Ireland, where he went for a residency at Ballinglen Arts Foundation. These pieces feature hues reminiscent of the emerald isle’s peat bogs and legends.
“I liked the one with the Guinness beer can,” said Jodie Roush, a sophomore majoring in communication. “It’s a familiar item, but one I’ve never seen as the subject of a painting before.”
Smith, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1980, has been awarded the national Art Matters grant and the Gold Medal Award from the Detroit Scarab Club. Currently, he is teaching painting and drawing at Kansas State University, where he encourages students not to be afraid.
“It’s very frustrating, as a teacher, to have a student who is frightened. You can’t be a scared artist. You’re going to make mistakes,” Smith said.
Katie Hibbard is a sophomore majoring in communication and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org