In 2016, an idea began to take shape in painter Craig Marshall Smith’s creative mind, and on April 15, 2017, a group of invited artists met for lunch at the Museum Outdoor Arts in Englewood and …
In 2016, an idea began to take shape in painter Craig Marshall Smith’s creative mind, and on April 15, 2017, a group of invited artists met for lunch at the Museum Outdoor Arts in Englewood and gathered later in the adjoining studio to discuss a project. Smith had proposed that they participate in a collaborative process where each would interact in creating a work of art with him — and contribute to a resulting exhibit at MOA.
On Jan. 19, a festive reception for “Intersections and Connections,” with soft background music by Tin Brother, celebrated the proposal’s results: a collection that permanently connects Smith with each of his invited colleagues in a way that will exist for many years, although the artworks will be separated after the end of March. (Some are sold.)
Smith’s 7-foot-6-inch by 7-foot-6-inch wooden cut-out of a horse named “Rodger” greets visitors as they climb the stairs to the second floor gallery. It has been in MOA’s permanent collection for some time.
Collaborating artists include Jennifer Meyerrose, Mark Friday, Deborah Jang, John McEnroe, Sharon Feder, Daniel House Kelly, Amy Metier, Greg Watts, James Robie, Gretchen Goetz and (posthumously) Richard Diebenkorn and Jan Stussy.
Self-portraits (some whimsical and some recognizable) hang above brief statements for each and the visitor can speculate awhile about individual responses.
Smith painted panels in the style of his late mentors: “When I walked into the UCLA Art Office in the fall of 1965 my life changed on the spot. The featured faculty artist was an ego-absorbed character named Jan Stussy who later became my drawing instructor, the chair of my graduate committee and the most important voice in my head for 40 years.”
“Intersecting Formations” fills MOA’s pleasing Indoor Gallery in Englewood — running until March 30.
(A related display of eight of Smith’s proposed collection of 50 U. S. state paintings hangs in the atrium.) Smith curated the exhibit and the MOA’s Tim Vacca handled multiple details through the year.
“Intersecting Formations” speaks of Smith’s associations with artists: those involved with his education and during a 30-year career as educator/artist — and current contemporaries. They have been part of his life as he became a painter and professor at three universities, in assorted locations from Michigan to California to Colorado. He said he is winding down his painting career and will focus on writing — a novel and a novella are underway.
Smith, currently a Highlands Ranch resident (and Colorado Community Media columnist), reached out to selected former students, graduate school friends from UCLA and Colorado colleagues, inviting participation during his spring/summer 2017 period as Artist in Residence at the MOA. That institution’s support involved related studio space, materials, an honorarium for participants, coordination and eventual installation of the collective exhibit. A final touch was production of a related video in the Sound Gallery, created by MOA director Cynthia Madden-Leitner and former Smith student Heather Longway, who is now on the MOA staff. (Also, in the White Gallery, a colorful video celebrating MOA’s 30th anniversary.)
For the collaborative exhibit, MOA furnished each participant with 40”-by-30” canvases or wood panels and 6-inch-square panels for self-portraits, and a Smith painting.
Individuals worked with Smith in the MOA studio if in town — or if not, by shipping pieces. (We visited on the day that Watt’s arrived and Smith was pondering a response.)
Smith was born in Flint, Michigan, in 1947 and received his MFA from UCLA in 1973. He taught at University of California, Arizona State University, Metropolitan State University and later at Arapahoe Community College. Littleton residents will be familiar with his flock of geese flying across the floor-to-ceiling mural at Bemis Library and he has works in corporate, public and private collections.
“Each of the 12 collaborations in this exhibit has two stories: one about the art and one about my history with all the artists,” Smith wrote. Two, Diebenkorn and Stussy, were mentors. Jennifer Meyerrose chairs the art department at Regis Jesuit High School. Gretchen Goetz, a California graphic artist, is a former student (1973), married to another former student. Greg Watts is dean of the College of Visual Arts at the University of North Texas and chaired the Art Department at Metropolitan State University and the Center for Visual Art. James Robie, a graphic designer, was an undergraduate friend as well as a UCLA student who “shared the ‘60s.” (The two attended a Cream concert on March 18, 1968.) Amy Metier, a fine Denver painter, is the only exhibitor who does not share a collaborative piece, but her painting, “Chandelier,” is worthy of note.
Daniel House Kelly, of Grand Junction, a former student, calls his art “assemblies.” It is about things we cannot articulate, made from “found objects and common material.” Sharon Feder of Denver says her paintings “are in response to the still life that constitutes our built environment.”
A drawing table in the back gallery holds Brett Ganyard's drawing of a rabbit — with additions by Smith.
Denver artist Deborah Jang creates wall assemblages and adapted one of hers, the horizontal “Conundrum,” to connect with a Smith panel. It is in the small gallery at the end of the larger room, as are several joint creations by Smith and Mark Friday, who is known for his assemblages and teaches at Art Students League. Well-known Denver sculptor John McEnroe, who lives in Lakewood, tore Smith’s canvas off the frame and reassembled a work that is close to the entry door on the right side.
It gives a good introduction to a challenging, stimulating exhibit, that makes you speculate: “What would I do?”