Moonlight is Sculpture, Sunlight is Painting

February 27 – March 24, 2007 Blue Mountain Gallery Two singular accomplishments lie at the heart of Linda Smith’s art. First she is a visionary, but with her feet firmly on the ground. Second she defies conventional wisdom by exhibiting sculpture along with her paintings and drawings. Rather than confusion, a lively dialogue ensues from this. She chooses the medium that will best let her say what she wants to say. Her art is essentially about communication and human relationships. There is urgency in her work about the whole human condition, but she expresses her feelings most clearly in work that involves her family and friends. She has always had this partiality and it is bracing to see the same personalities and symbols continually updated, rethought, and imagined. Although she presents her narratives with great clarity, the precise meaning of a painting can remain a tantalizing mystery. This is true of “Confrontation” which seems to occur on a galaxy far far away. And the homage to her father, “Music from a Shell,” takes place somewhere deep and dark. Smith’s exhibition touches all the four basic elements: water is represented as a “Sea of Lace,” and in a gouache, flowing water resembles abundant hair. Birds have been represented as messengers since ancient times; they communicate with other realms. Earlier paintings of her children asleep feature alighting birds. Now Smith has painted a triptych of three young sisters in a formal rather Victorian style. Each girl interacts with a hummingbird, and their reactions to it are very different. “The Messenger” features a bird focused on the ear of a man with a flowing beard. This frequent character is Smith’s husband, Sam Jungkurth, whose has long been her major muse. He is the subject of portrait sculptures presented virtually wrapped in a long beard that accentuates his role as a sage. In the realm of sculpture are several dramatically disturbing pieces: “Nuclear Nightmare,” “Tormented Soul,” and “Dead Soldier.” But the centerpiece of the entire exhibition is three heads of Smith’s teenage daughter Kirstine who was adopted as a baby in Guatemala. In all its incarnations—“Child of Fire” is polychrome terracotta, “Goddess of Receptivity” is bronze and “Green Mansions” is patinated clay—Kirstine’s head has the clear stylization associated with Pre-Columbian art. The title “Green Mansions” appropriately evokes Rima the Bird Girl from the W.H. Hudson novel. With wit and skill to carry it off, Smith makes a sly addition to “Goddess of Receptivity”: strands of her sculpted hair end in numerous ears, what we call open ears. Indeed, as Ezra Pound said, “artists are the antennae of the race.” Guanajuato, Mexico is an exceptionally picturesque city, but when she was there recently Smith focused on the humble trees. However she anthropomorphized them, turning them variously into a Martha Graham-like dancer, the Three Graces and a pair of lovers. She was inspired by a church as evidenced by studies of the crucified Christ that match the intensity of Mexican wood sculpture. Henry James advised that a writer should be “someone on whom nothing is lost.” If the test also applies to visual artists, Linda Smith passes with flying colors. William Zimmer January 2007

James Pinney Review

Linda Smith’s sculptures are portraitures in clay—powerful, emotive works which betray a masterful technique, blending traditional form with a contemporary twist. Living Nature has inspired these pieces, giving face to human feelings, ranging from blissful ecstasy and sardonic grimace, to searing sorrow and the resignation to spiritual resolution.
“My work comes from living—trying to make sense out of living, striving to come to terms with eternal truths, the possibilities of things felt but unseen.”
Plumbing the depths of life-experience, Ms. Smith distills and transforms the raw matter of the human psyche, and through the crucible of the sculptural process, creates manifestations in the transmutation of human character, revealing the mysterious truths of the aesthetic heart. James Pinney, Curator Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, Brooklyn, NY March 2004