Alexandria Smith is Living to Tell the Tale

Larry Ossei-Mensah, critic and curator, gives us an inside view into Alexandria Smith, an artist to watch in 2015. With an MFA in Painting and Drawing from Parsons The New School for Design, her works explore the developing stages of forming an identity.
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Alexandria Smith, The Deluge, mixed media collage on board, 16 x 20 in., 2014

Alexandria Smith is a multi-talented artist whose recent solo exhibition Perpetual Adorations at Scaramouche Gallery in New York City has made her an artist to watch in 2015. Smith’s dynamic oeuvre features an expansive tool kit of mediums encompassing drawing, collage and painting. Expressed as if viewed via the prism of adolescence, these works employ a vernacular that oscillates between whimsical to weighty in one fell swoop. Through fanciful narratives Smith investigates complicated concepts related to identity, sexuality and the journey of self-discovery, and her artistic curiosity coupled with a sixth sense for experimentation is imbued with an intuitive freedom and fluidity. 2015 promises to be a year filled with milestones as she completes her residency at the prestigious Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.
Alexandria Smith, The Uncertainty Of It All, acrylic and glitter on panel, 24 x 24 in., 2014

After graduating from Parson’s with her MFA, the New York native did what most artists do to make ends meet — she became an art teacher. Consumed with the Herculean task of teaching full-time and working as a professional artist, Smith finally reached her breaking point in early 2012. After an arduous day of teaching, Smith had an anxiety attack on the train during her commute home from the Bronx. The stress of being an educator while developing an artistic practice ceased to be a feasible work-life balance. Reflecting on her priorities and aspirations, Smith quit her job as a teacher. By committing 150% of her energy to being a professional artist, she finally had space to unlock a new layer to her practice — a layer that provided a clearer insight into what she desired to express and explore with her art. This choice to step out on faith soon led to a flurry of opportunities punctuated by a solo exhibition in Los Angeles in the fall of 2012.
Alexandria Smith, Fee Fi Fo, acrylic and oil collage on panel, 18 x 18 in., 2014

Anchored by her love for magical realist authors like Toni Morrison, Jean Toomer and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Smith constructs contemporary capriccios featuring a codex that situates her hybrid characters in scenarios to explore a variety of notions and concerns. The influence of masters like Tiepolo, Caravaggio and Guston posits Smith’s work in an active art historical dialogue articulated via arresting tableaux or intimate vignettes that often deconstruct the female form. Smith’s incessant obsession with making work using these hybrid characters serves as a catalyst for her to explore the complexities of identity and a sense of place. The piece Fee Fi Fo (2014) is a prime example of the playful yet introspective nature of Smith’s work. She reimagines the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk by captivating the viewer via the gaze of her hybrid character and resulting in a tête-à-tête that pulsates with energy and mystery while evoking a sense of voyeurism.
Alexandria Smith, Folie a Deux, mixed media collage on board, 30 x 20 in., 2014

Smith’s career is currently embarking on more ambitious path as she shifts her work to creating three-dimensional installations. In a recent conversation, she shared: “I’m allowing the work to now take over spaces. I’ve really been thinking a lot about the space the work inhabits.” This artistic growth — alluded to in her exhibition at Scaramouche Gallery — surely heightens the excitement of what to expect from Smith in 2015. We will all be waiting with bated breath to see what she does

Larry Ossei-Mensah

Author: Larry Ossei-Mensah

Larry Ossei-Mensah is a cultural critic, entrepreneur and independent curator who has emerged as a dynamic voice for the rising creative class documenting cultural and contemporary art happenings for various publications such as Arise, Uptown and Whitewall Magazine. His writings include profiles of Swizz Beatz, El Anatsui, Yinka Shonibare, Mickalene Thomas, Rashid Johnson, Lorna Simpson, and Derrick Adams.

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