The Discerning Eye
January 26 - May 3
Missouri Scenes of Byron Smith
Columbia native and painter Byron Smith is the current featured artist at The Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art on the campus of Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo. The show, titled "Missouri Scenes of Byron Smith," opens Jan. 19 and runs through March 4, with an artist's reception Sun., Jan. 24, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Born in 1960, Smith grew up absorbing the shapes and colors of the world around him, including vivid images from his grandfather's farm. He began painting at the age of eight, mixing his own colors from a 12-color box of crayons to match those found in the more expensive 64-color box. Because his family was far from any art museums, Smith learned about works of the masters by creating "Paint-by-Number" masterpieces. "It taught me how to see the images," he says. "I'd look at them and say, I can do that.'
Smith studied art at the University of Missouri Columbia during the 1980s and currently shares studio space at Orr Street Studios with one of his former teachers, retired MU professor and noted artist Frank Stack. Smith first met him at a figure drawing session run by Stack on weekends. After nearly 30 years of study, Smith now helps run these sessions. He paints mostly in oils and watercolors although he has worked with pastels, acrylics and other media, recently adding casein, a versatile milk-based, water-soluble medium that dries quickly.
There are a many times when he looks at what he has created and says, "There, that's it." Still, like most artists, he is often unsatisfied with his artwork. When he walks into an exhibition of his work, he admits, "I can still take a paintbrush and correct something."
For more than 40 years now, Byron Smith has looked at the world, rolled its reality around in his mind, and let his visions flow out through his fingers and onto the canvas. His favorite subjects remain the landscapes of the Missouri River Valley and features of the communities that snuggle up to the rivers, especially Rocheport, Boonville and McBaine. He often looks for the unusual aspect of a location. He observes, "Sometimes the character of a back yard is more interesting than the front."
Widely known for his landscapes, which he paints on site rather than from photographs, Smith observes, "I never get bored painting a landscape location because working from nature, the scene changes continuously. When I paint from nature, I express myself by depicting the landscape elements I both see and feel. As a result, every painting is different." In addition to landscapes, he focuses on nudes and portraits, painted in his studio or in the weekend sessions. He has also created lithography and intaglio printmaking, using both handmade and traditional printmaking papers.
Smith co-owned Mythmaker Art Gallery in Columbia from 1993-98 and has curated exhibitions for Gains/Oldham Black Culture Center at MU. His works have been exhibited by venues in the Midwest, including in Columbia at the Missouri State Historical Society; the University of Missouri Museum of Art and Archeology; the Walter-Boone Historical Society Museum; and the Daniel Boone Regional Library. He last exhibited at Central Methodist University in 2000.
The current Ashby-Hodge Gallery exhibition of Byron Smiths work includes more than 40 paintings comprised of watercolor, oils, and casein. At the artist's reception on Jan. 24, Smith has invited Anand Prahlad, an English professor at MU to perform on his mbira, an African thumb piano. This guest appearance is indicative of the way Smith views art and life. He looks for fascinating people and interesting places, whether past or present, whether African-American or from other cultures. He studies them. He learns from them. He paints them.
In addition to the Smith exhibition, the gallery is featuring from its
permanent collection "Images in Honor of Black History Month," 25 pieces
of artworks by African-Americans or depicting Black American subject
matter. This part of the exhibition includes two paintings by renowned
Black folk artist Clementine Hunter, pieces by Romare Bearden and
Venetta Whitaker, and works by CMU alumnus Charles Broadus.