Dealing directly with issues that the artist experienced as a child, these art works speak about themes of male influence and of dominance on society as a whole. Attempting to go beyond a literal representation, underlying themes are presented to explore ideas about judgment and value systems which manifest themselves through various forms of oppression, discrimination, and the isolation of groups of people. Conflicts that arise through clashes of opposing ideological, political, and social value systems are manifested within dynamic compositions.
These paintings employ concentric circles as a compositional device to create a passage into the common experience of how we create identity and decipher it.
Our identity has a fictional quality that is transitory, much like ripples on the surface of water. We are able to conceal, recycle or change aspects of our identity depending on given situations or circumstances.
My paintings are fictional accounts of these transitions. Derived from photographic sources, they rearrange the visual information into circular bands that shift and reveal the fluent nature of constructing identity.
The paintings in this series attempt to recreate a passage into the common experience of how we decipher and decode identity visually. The viewer's eyes are led past vacant landscapes towards cropped peripheral views of people's faces which dominate the outer contour of the picture plane. The edge of the painting becomes crucial as it cuts and deletes visual information we typically rely upon to be defining characteristics of a person's physical appearance.
The omission of one's facial features invites a decelerated reconstruction of the external, nullifying a quick judgment based solely on outward appearances. This rebuilding reveals clues about one's temperament and disposition.
"Just when I think painters have done it all, someone comes up with images unlike any I've seen before."
"...are based on figures and backgrounds he finds on the Internet--but after he prints them, he crumples up the paper and flattens it with a rolling pin. This makes the figures he paints feel strangely displaced and even more strangely fragmented..."
"Smithenry's figures seem barely rescued from the trash can, and their strange contortions become a reflection on the way our cultural media glut devalues not only images but the subjects behind them."
-Fred Camper, Chicago Reader. February 20, 2003.
Included in this section are drawings and prints made from crumbled images.
In an age of cheaply produced and easily procured imagery on the Internet, these paintings insist that an artist need not toil any longer in the generation of original imagery to use as subject matter. Instead, they demand that the artist's job is to recycle; to breathe new life into ephemeral images by physically manipulating them and translating them into paint on canvas.
These paintings have been recycled entirely from images gleaned from the Internet. The use of "found" images for constructing visual compositions acts as a casting call for diverse characters, plots, and backdrops which are ripe for interpretation.
The contextual glue that adheres these disparate cast members together can be discovered in the manner in which the paint is applied. In order for the images to function within the confines of the composition, all subjects are given a similar make-up by painting all details in the same deliberate manner. All color and value are reduced to small pools of color; similar to the way one would go about creating a paint-by-number painting. This gives a democratic approach to the surface of the painting, all areas receive equal attention.
By connecting the modern pastime of online browsing and graphic manipulation with the age-old traditions of oil painting and drawing, these works of art create oddly beautiful, disjointed images with displaced figures orphaned into often incongruent surroundings .
This unrelated combination of subject to background makes both appear out-of place. This strangeness is heightened by images which are stretched and twisted into contortions. The use of distortion serves as a visual metaphor for the way our digitally interconnected lives can seemingly become blurs or blips on a modern radar.
These works of art ask the viewer the thorny question, are you a nobody?
As the Internet continuously provides venues for people to self-promote, self-define, self-fulfill and control their own digital worlds, it's no small wonder that one's feeling of self-importance might increase while living in one's head, alone, and gazing at electronic screens.
These paintings reflect images of people, appropriated from vlog sites and image banks, who are engaged in self-absorbed behavior before their computers.
Smithenry explores the notion that while we engage in a search for significance online, most of us have to live with the stark fact that neither fame nor notoriety will ever find us. Hopefully, this body of work moves the viewer to ponder the "nobody question" by considering how our technology consumes and distracts us from our off-line pursuits that ultimately make us the "somebodies" we are.
I'm so over you. I know, I still use you for like email and stuff. But really, I feel like I'm the one getting used. I'm just tired and bored, bored, bored. You used to be so thrilling and exciting. Now, you're like some big thing needing to be fed. And the results of all this effort just end up being me, sitting here alone. Goodbye. See you later.
The bubble paintings are based on seemingly inconsequential events that occur on the web. They tell a sad sorry tale of how lessons go unlearned and heartfelt desires remain unfulfilled. Micro-celebrities and viral videos make frequent appearances, demanding our attention and eating it too.