Paintings Travel to Los
Angeles for Solo Exhibit
By TERESA WINCHESTER
It’s a long way from Carrie Mae Smith’s Italianate stone house in Gilbertsville to Los Angeles and Lowell Ryan Projects, a split-level art gallery with an art deco exterior. Nevertheless, Smith made the 2,764-mile trip with her husband, Greg Watson, on February 14 to open her first solo exhibit at the gallery, which welcomes artists whose work crosses disciplinary boundaries.
“It’s the most significant gallery show I’ve had to date,” Smith said.
Smith’s paintings largely feature vintage porcelain and flatware. Her work, both in its subject matter and in its soft, luminous technique, evokes a more genteel era, when tea was served formally in dainty cup and saucer sets and cream poured from a small pitcher instead of a wax carton.
Smith, in fact, lived in this more elegant world to some extent, working during summers on Martha’s Vineyard as a private chef for the same family from 1995 to 2010.
“This job was like a combination of being Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes,” Smith laughed, referring to the iconic Downton Abbey characters.
The installation’s title, “Four Plates and Four Forks,” is taken from one of the exhibit’s 30 paintings, which are small-scale, with dimensions ranging from 12 by 14 to 14 by 17 inches. Smith paints with oil on aluminum composite material, a substrate designed for architects and sign makers.
“I like a stable substance for painting, one that doesn’t change with humidity—a hard, smooth surface,” Smith said.
Some the objects in her paintings are derived locally. Representations of serving dishes, lusterware, and egg cups come straight from cupboards in Hyde Hall, the neoclassic mansion at the north end of Otsego Lake. The Norwich bakery La Maison Blanche inspired Smith’s mouth-watering “Napoleon Pastry with Lattice Icing.”
“The aesthetic of layering, the contrast of lattice icing on top of bright yellow pastry cream, all of this caught my eye,” Smith said.
In contrast to the numerous eye-pleasing subjects, the installation also features several paintings of cuts of raw meat. A butcher’s daughter, Smith remembers “the sides of meat hanging in the refrigeration rooms, the selection of knives, watching my father sharpen them with speed and great precision. Although my father’s work wasn’t the initial reason I began painting meat, it has become one of the reasons I continue to paint it,” Smith said.
A self-described “observational painter,” Smith strives to capture both the object and the feelings associated with it. A particular influence on Smith’s work is the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla, whose works she saw while restoring a stone house in the Spanish village of Requijada.
“He captured atmosphere and feeling—not just light and color—but the feeling of the air,” Smith said.
John Singer Sargent, a contemporary of Sorolla, also had an impact on Smith’s technique due to his ability to capture simultaneously the ephemeral and the concrete, Smith said.
Smith, who earned an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of Delaware in 2013, moved to Gilbertsville in 2016 with Watson, a material application specialist at Golden Artist Colors in New Berlin.
“We fell in love with the stone house and the village of Gilbertsville, as we are both romantics and appreciators of historic architecture,” Smith said.
Currently teaching 3-D design at SUNY Oneonta, Smith has also taught drawing, painting, and sculpture at Ithaca College and at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Nothing in Smith’s petite frame and tranquil demeanor suggests her experience as a member of the “Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby League” in Indiana, and, briefly, as part of Oneonta’s “Hill City Rollers.”
“Roller derby is great fun and a terrific stress reliever,” Smith said.
Smith’s Lowell Ryan Projects exhibit runs through March 18 and is viewable online at www.lowellryanprojects.com.
Smith also recently co-curated the exhibition “Milk Tongue”—”artwork about motherhood from women artists’ perspectives,” at SUNY Oneonta’s Martin-Mullen Art Gallery.
Lovely article about a wonderful painter!!
Well done Teresa… As always!