I grew up close to the outdoors, and from an early age I was fascinated by the natural world.
As a youth in the decade of the fifties I would spend long summer days observing wildlife and sketching scenes from around our north woods Michigan home. Winters were passed interpreting these memories in oils on canvas. I felt completely immersed in the colors, sounds, aroma, and even the taste of the forest. This was the beginning of a lasting and intensely spiritual relationship with nature that permeates my art to this day.
For the past many years I have concentrated my efforts on welded bronze and copper sculpture. I feel that working directly with molten metal is an ideal way to capture the spontaneous yet orderly flow and rhythm of organic forms. My sculptures tend toward the interpretive and subjective end of the impressionist/photographic realist spectrum. I strive to capture and communicate the essence of a tree as I experience it rather than to reproduce a photographic copy of the original. The result is a tree sculpture that unmistakably evokes “aspen,” while a close scrutiny reveals that the leaves are not a literal copy of aspen leaves at all. Art imitates, but artistic expression must first pass through the interpretive filter of the artist. I firmly believe that art is an act of both creation and communication. The work of art must strike a responsive chord in the viewer, who becomes a co-creator in the sense that his own interpretation and appreciation of the finished piece is shaped by, and in turn shapes, his personal experience with the subject and the medium of its expression. If too much is filtered out of a rendering the resulting work of art is obscure, and it is relevant only to the artist and a small group of those who share his vision. I prefer to produce art which appeals to a broad spectrum of people. An artist-communicator gains a following to the degree that his art resonates with the sensibilities of the viewer. As an old adage puts it, I want to shout my message from a tower, not whisper in a well.
On a more philosophical level I believe that for those who seek only a pretty object for the home or office my work provides an ornamental and purely decorative beauty. A sculpture provides a dimension only hinted at in two dimensional work. For the collector who appreciates form, texture, color, and line in their more formal relationships, I attempt to create a sculpture that satisfies that tactile satisfaction. And the person who seeks a deeper spiritual meaning through the contemplation of art may share my vision of an analogy between the creation of a delicate tree sculpture from formless molten metal and the creation of the ordered universe from primeval chaos. It is my sincere desire that my art might inspire people who routinely see only the decorative aspect of art to delve into a more introspective way of viewing, and in this way to not only satisfy their craving for beauty, but to deepen their understanding of the essence of art as well.
Richard Bell Smith