Dianne Smithwww.diannesmithart.comhttp://email@example.comArtist StatementInitially, I created what I thought I was supposed to based upon how the world deﬁnedme. Today my art surpasses who I am as a hyphenated identity: African American,Belizean, and woman. I had to go deep within myself to ﬁnd and express the real me. Now I take license from that place inside of me that is beyond my race, gender, and ethnicity. Granting myself permission to hear a particular criticism helped me to realize that freedom is wisdom. Once I was able to incorporate criticism into my artistic way of seeing and being, I experienced a new emergence in my work. It was pure, original, and undeniably me. While I had no connection to abstract art, what came out of me was honest versus planned from some outer paradigm. I realized that my mission was to encourage my audience to see themselves as well as others internally rather than externally. I use textures, tones, shades, colors, and strokesto engage my audience, inviting them to explore and embrace their innermost thoughtsand feelings.The process of ﬁnding my voice as an abstract painter was organic, just as it was withmy three-dimensional work. I create assemblagesconstructed with any item that would ordinarily bethrown away. The sculptures are made with everydayrefuse and whatever (art) materials I have. I ﬁnd ways tobridge conventional material and my trash. Or, I maydeconstruct an existing piece and repurpose it intoanother work of art.One day, while cleaning my kitchen along with aconversation with a friend about our childhood, I beganto pay attention to the size of my trashcan. What occurredto me was how large it was for one person. The next day Iswapped it out for a much smaller one. However, that didnot satisfy my preoccupation with waste. I becameconsumed with what I threw away. Suddenly, I began saving things like: junk mail, bottles,
cans, old clothes, painting rags, ﬁles, newspapers, packaging, etc.These (otherwise) discarded materials became part of my inner dialogue--a metaphor for how Iview the world. Identity: race, gender, religion, inequity and consumption in a global climateﬁlled with economic despair are all interrelated. Yet, my personhood deﬁnes my relationshipwith each one. Just as it deﬁnes the relationship I have with the items I use in my sculptures.Most often, a force that is beyond me informs and guides my creative expression. I amcalled upon to create my art in response to the events, circumstances and times of theworld around me.Whether it is the plight of women and children around the world or the tragedy of anatural disaster or a conversation with a friend or some historical context, I am able toFlickr: Surface and Soul
Within Shadows CastWithin Shadows Cast is a site speciﬁc installation constructed out of butcher paper forPiedmont Arts. The paper is crunched, crumpled, rolled, twisted, interlocked, wovenand manipulated into the space. It’s formations and use of light creates patterns ofshadows, as well as contrast of light and dark. These are just some of the many qualities that draw me to the use of this material. In the summer of 2011 is when I really began using butcher paper as part of my art practice. I was commissioned to create a work of art in one of the houses on the historic Governor’s Island in New York City. The artwork was to pay homage to the history of African Americans in New York. Not wanting to do a literal piece, I focused on a site-speciﬁc installation that would embody the spirit of the enslaved Africans. I chose this particular material for all that I mentioned as well as because of it’sstrength, ﬂexibility, and fragility. I began thinking that these were perhaps some of thecharacteristics of the enslaved Africans. Thus the paper is a metaphor for their spiritand deplorable treatment.Butcher paper is used for many things and tossed away once we are done. Wrappingmeat, craft, shipping and the packing of merchandise are just some of its uses. When wepack things we often push them down, bunching the paper to ﬁll corners, trying to geteverything tightly secured, just as the enslaved Africans were packed onto cargo shipsin the Middle Passage.Within Shadows Cast is not only a continued homage to enslaved Africans but also it ismeant to question our ancestral, historical, cultural and political past, as well as thepossibilities for our future. Look at the wrinkles in the paper, think about the wrinklesin the skin of the elders in your families: What stories do they tell? What memories dothey hold? Look at the ways in which the paper intertwines: How are you connected toyour ancestral legacy? Look at the shadows on the walls: What are your hidden truths?What is the imprint of your personhood on humanity?Flickr: Within Shadows Cast
Where Are We Now?It is an honor to have been asked to create this site-speciﬁc installation in collaboration withReverend Thurman Echols. The installation is a unique blend of his Civil Rights memorabilia(along with his periodicals and photos that are pre and post), personal photos from both of us,audio, video and a (select) few of my sculptural pieces.The concept was to create an installation that not only pays tribute to the Civil Rights movementfrom a Black History perspective but from that of an American History as well. Incorporatingpersonal photos as well as other forms of symbolism speaks to the paradox between the struggle for identity, equality, liberty, justice, humanity and the necessities of everyday life. For instance, on the plantations the enslaved gathered and found ways to communicate…. The Juba dance was originally an African- American plantation dance, brought from West Africa by slaves. They performed it during their gatherings when no rhythm instruments were allowed because Slave owners feared that secret codes would be hidden in the drumming. Master Juba (William Henry Lane) was a free black man and the most famous Juba dancer. He was also one of the ﬁrst black performers in the United States and credited for introducing Tap to the country. In tribute to this important part of our history the video footage is of legendary dancers Cora La Redd, Peg Leg Bates, the Nicholas Brothers, steppers, and contemporary street tapers. An image of Master Juba hangs above the video screen. Their movements are another form of chronicling our history. It is important tounderstand that we can exam our past or history through multiple modalities.As such, the words of two of Americas most celebrated folklorist, anthropologist, poet, socialactivist, novelist, playwright, columnist and author was important to help contextualize theinstallation. Handwritten wall text of Langston Hughes’, I, Too, Am America, is subtly interwoventhroughout the installation, and an audio reading of Zora Neal Hurston’s, Their Eyes WereWatching God, by actor Ruby Dee is heard looping over the installation.As I was ﬂushing out ideas for the installation I was certain I would use this particular audiobeing read by one of our National treasures. I thought the story both beautiful and adequate.Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote in the afterword, Their Eyes Were Watching God is primarily concerned
“with the project of ﬁnding a voice, with language as an instrument of injury and salvation, ofselfhood and empowerment.”I, Too, Am America begins with Hughes claiming that he, too “sings America,” after he makesreference to skin color by noting that he is “the darker brother,” he goes on to say that he is sent“to eat in the kitchen when company comes” as if he were a slave being sent away. However, thepoor treatment does not stop him from laughing and growing strong. He imagines a future inwhich he is no longer sent to the kitchen, in which no one would dare to call him unequal. Theywill see him as beautiful and "be ashamed" of their previous prejudice. The poem ends withHughes writing, again, that he (and, therefore, his race) is indeed American.The installation uses multiple lenses to look at America today through its racial history by posingthe question: Where Are We Now?In closing, I’d like to thank Piedmont Arts for the opportunity to open this installation the veryweekend of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 83rd birthday.Flickr: Where Are We Now?