Sally K. Smith Artist

Berkeley, CA

"I am an oil painter and process artist. I create charcoal from meaningful objects (political, sentimental, scientific, historic). I have developed several methods of applying the charcoal to paper, canvas, and even wall murals. I frequently combine oil paint with my compositions. I also create oil paintings (without charcoal)."
My art is inspired by journeys.

I create charcoal from meaningful materials, whether political, sentimental, scientific or historic. Long before I create my art, the material I use in the art has been on a journey. By transforming the material into charcoal, I am memorializing that journey. 

Because every piece of charcoal has its own unique characteristics, I must develop unique methods for applying that particular charcoal to a surface. This challenge leads me to find and explore new methods of mark making. The charcoal also inspires me to create compositions that speak meaningfully to the charcoal’s history. Sometimes these compositions are abstract, and other times they are figurative. Sometimes they are simple drawings on paper and other times they include additional materials such as oil paint, wax or wire.

When a piece is finished, I feel like I have been on a journey with the elements in the painting. It is important to me that the finished work expresses this journey and engages others to explore it.

My figurative art is inspired by journeys I have taken or dream of taking, as well as journeys taken by strangers. Dreaming of Egypt, for example, fuses pieces of an old Saul Leiter photograph of NY with my own images of Egypt. The Anatolian Street Market series merges my early memories of Morocco, a found horizontal photograph of a street market in Turkey, and Diebenkorn’s St. Petersburg/Matisse-visit paintings. Although these paintings are typically figurative and feel pinned to a place, they concurrently interweave multiple places and times. 

Sometimes I use vintage home movies or photographs for the underlying composition of a painting. For example, I am creating an ongoing series based on photographs taken by my father when I was very young and living with my family in Spain. I am also creating a series informed by old home movies from East Germany during the period of the Berlin Wall. During the pandemic I created a series of landscape paintings inspired by views seen by people from their homes around the world during lockdown. I also am drawn to images of current events in the world.

The creative process itself is like a journey. One carefully maps out a plan, but must nevertheless be ready to take a spontaneous path with its inherent risks and discoveries.
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