Artist draws from her love of realism and portraiture to create three–dimensional paintings and evocative messages of environmental responsibility

August 9, 2018 at 11:57 am

Spartanburg, S.C. – The Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery at the University of South Carolina Upstate is pleased to present Re-Imagined, an exhibition of constructed paintings by Kirkland Thomas Smith. Re-Imagined will be on exhibit August 17 to September 21 with an artist’s reception to be held on September 6 at 4:30 p.m.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina in studio arts, concentrating in ceramics and sculpture. Her early work in three‐dimensional design helped shape Smith’s thinking about form in painting as she moved toward an emphasis on portraiture after graduation, which led her to receive classical training in painting and drawing at Studio Escalier in France.

In 2008, Smith entered an environmental art contest and almost by accident began creating contemporary assemblages from post‐consumer materials. Using discarded objects as her paint, she found an evocative way to deliver the message of the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling. She found the medium connected with viewers of all ages and through it a conversation of images developed. Smith’s portrait of Apple CEO Steve Jobs was awarded the $25,000 Peoples Choice Award in 2013. Constructed of parts from used Apple products, Smith created a portrait of the late Jobs that resonated with viewers.

“This exhibit will intrigue viewers with a menagerie of ordinary waste materials while creating illusions of people and objects when observed from a distance,” said Jane Nodine, director of the university gallery at USC Upstate. “Viewers will find plenty to discuss as they sort through the complex mass of highly organized waste products.”

Smith has exhibited in juried shows, winning numerous awards and commissions. Her assemblage of work can be found in public collections in South Carolina, including the Greenville Children’s Museum, The Inn at the Crossroads, Lake City, S.C. Department of Commerce, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts. She hopes viewers will find the work entertaining, but also to see in it the impact consumerism is creating on our environment.

“Each assemblage is a little piece of our history,” said Smith. “It is the story of us today. What we throw away says a lot about who we are, but what we choose to cherish and protect says even more in the end.”

Kirkland lives in Columbia with her husband and four children. She maintains a work space at Stormwater Studios located at 413 Pendleton Street.