I'vegottafeelin', 2005, acrylic on canvas, 12x12
Dianne Smith is in a class of her own: A modern-day Van Gogh with a diligence of Harriet Tubman; an apparent heir to the Harlem Renaissance; daugther of a new black artistic dusk; griot of the emerging neo-asbtract expressionism movement. A working artist since 2001, Dianne Smith has been compared to the likes of Richard Mayhew and Norman Lewis and this is only the beginning for this emerging neo-abstract expressionistic artist. Deeply rooted in the spirit and emotions of ancestry, her works can found in the private collections of Danny Simmons, UFA Gallery, OJ Simpson and many others. Most recently, Dianne just commissioned a piece entitled "Til Now We Stand At Last: for the 200th anniversary celebration of The Abyssinian Baptist Church. She puts it in this way: "human civilizations and cultures all have Africa as their mothers and are therefore more similar than we realize. I want my work to justly portray that connection, the essence of human existence, and thereby possibly affecting the whole of mankind for the better." This interview gives you the indepthness into the life, thought process, spirit and continual journey of this amazing artist.
What type of artist is Dianne Smith?
Not in your face artist. I don't feel to need to be out there in such an overexposed way.
How did you become involved in art? Did you know from an earlier age?
It all started in junior high school and being a product of New York City Public School system I was able to choice which school I wanted to attend; the choice would become the High School of Music and Art. A teacher persuaded me to apply and I was accepted. Upon graduating high school, I attended Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles, and remained there for 2 years; I wasn't prepared for the "real world" and returned home and completed my studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After that I turned to modeling and that carried me to Europe for 3 years. After leaving Europe I actually moved back to Los Angeles and that was when I decided to become a painter. Los Angeles was not of inspiration to me so I relocated back to NYC and knew that I wanted to live in Harlem to experience the re surging Renaissance and to feel the spirits of the ancestors. Not never having a "real job" I turned back to fashion, more specifically fashion retail management and decided in early 2001 to pursue painting full-time due to a friend's persuasion. I have been creating ever since then and it has been the best decision ever.
Could you briefly describe your creative process?
The process I encounter is not a pretentious one. The way I go about creating art is by engaging in conversation with people and experiencing the everyday in every way. Whenever the moment hits me to create then it happens.
What influences you as an artist?
Inspired, not influenced, by any artist that can produce good quality work. Inspired by those great dignitaries of the Harlem Renaissance i.e. Aaron Douglas, Lois Mailou Jones and others; those artists had a sense of purpose and lived as such and I wish to do the same with my craft.
What made you decide to lean more towards "abstract expressionism?" When I first attended your showing during Harlem Arts Week, I automatically thought of "Neo-Abstract Expressionism"; these unidentifiable pieces with lush and vibrant colors not the dull, muted colors of yesteryear.
Actually I fell into the abstract category by friend and mentor Darryl Simmons. When I first started painting I fell into the trap of creating "black art" or art that reflected how I looked at myself physically. I never knew of other black abstract painters until I discovered Norman Lewis. I will never forget 3 principles that Darryl told me: "find your voice", "figure who you are as an artist" and "free up." Upon hearing that I allowed myself to do just that and I discovered my voice as artist and as a person.
Why do you feel their are not many black abstract artists?
Honestly I don't think many are given the opportunity. Black artists are placed in an unfair position at which they are subjected to backlash from their own community. Many are forced or feel that they must create art that looks the same and that is so mass produced at the same time in order to make money. The downfall of that is that you can walk into any print shop and buy the artwork but you're actually paying for an expensive frame and matting as opposed to the cost People want to buy black art but good black art; that doesn't necessarily mean it must all look the same. But then again what defines "black art?" Does it mean art painted of the black experience by a black artist versus art painted of the black experience by a white artist?
What do you want people to get from your art?
I would like for the general public to feel inspired, to get lost, become influenced, to think, to relax; whatever emotion discharge happens happens.
How often do you show your work? Are you with a local dealer?
Not very often. I am more interested in honing my skills as opposed to mass producing my work. Also I would love to expand in other states, regions and countries. Right now I am trying to collaborate on a travelling show so look for that in the near future.
So what lies in the future for Dianne Smith?
I would like to get into furniture design, very 3-dimensional pieces. Actually I have designed a couple of tables for art shows and the response has been very positive. Also more larger scale pieces of works.
How can one get in contact with you as far as purchasing pieces or viewing your works?
For all inquiries concerning art,I can be contacted at:
Address: 101 West 130th Street
New York, NY 10027
For more information, visit the website at http://www.diannesmithart.com/