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"One of the things I strive to express in my work is a sense of interrupted space and time. We come into contact with dozens of people on a daily basis, catch their eyes for a brief moment and move on, never knowing the intricate accumulation of experience that forms their reality. My work is about that moment; hinting at a narrative, yet remaining intentionally elusive."
"You're strolling down a busy sidewalk, absorbed in your thoughts. Suddenly someone walking the other way glances in your direction, you glance back, and your reverie is broken. Two souls meet, briefly, then the moment passes, and without breaking stride you each walk on."
Bucks County resident Mavis Smith studied at the Pratt Institute in the 1970s, and has exhibited her work in Holland and Switzerland as well as Santa Fe, New York City, and at several venues in Bucks County. She is also a prolific illustrator and author of children's books, having authored 10 and illustrated at least 75. Her solo exhibition Mavis Smith: Hidden Realities, 2012, at the James A. Michener Art Museum sampled a range of Smith's work, including both paintings and works on paper as well as figurative images, still lifes, and her most recent images of twisted and convoluted tree branches. her work is represented in the permanent collection of the Michener Art Museum.
"My work is about that moment," says painter Mavis Smith. Smith is part storyteller, part portraitist, and part stage director. Her images are like single frames of a movie with no beginning and no end, as mysterious figures gaze out at the world with enigmatic calm, surrounded by swimming pools, moody interiors, and distant skies. Often working in the ancient craft of egg tempera, which was used by artists as diverse as Botticelli, Vermeer, and Andrew Wyeth, she slowly builds up layer upon layer of translucent color. The resulting images seem to radiate light from within, making the people who inhabit her luminous world both arresting and slightly surreal. "Mystery combined with elegance is one of my goals," she says.
"A lot of my paintings are done in egg tempera. Working on a true gesso panel, I alternate brush strokes of thicker paint with washes of pure translucent color. I build up hundreds of layers like this, until the end result has a luminous, ethereal quality. Although labor intensive, it is a technique that I think enhances the slightly surreal sensibility of my work. As for imagery, I rarely have a fully formed concept in mind when I begin a painting. Instead, I start out with a face or pose that intrigues me; then once I am caught up in the physical execution of the piece, other elements of the composition suggest themselves."
-Mavis Smith, 2010
Mavis Smith, photograph by David DiMicco, 2003. Image courtesy of the artist.
Education and Training
Pratt Institute, BFA, New York, New York, 1974-1977
Seattle Academy of Fine Art, Seattle, Washington, 2002
Residency CAN SERRAT, Barcelona, Spain, 2004, partial stipend recipient
Connection to Bucks County
Mavis Smith initially moved to Lambertville from New York City in 1990, and then to Solebury Township in 1997. She says: "I cherish this area for its unique combination of rural beauty and urban sophistication, and for its wealth of inhabitants from widely diverse backgrounds and fields of accomplishment." Mavis Smith has exhibited locally at Phillips' Mill Annual Art Exhibitions, Artsbridge, the Gallery of Fine Art in Newtown, and the Michener Art Museum.
Colleagues and Affiliations
"The artistic community is so strong, and I am constantly inspired by the work of so many colleagues - Jan Lipes, Myles Cavanaugh and Jim Freeman to name just a few."
Major Solo Exhibitions
Gallery D'Eendt, Amsterdam, Holland, 1977
Basel Int'l Art Fair, Basel, Switzerland, 1977
Kerr Gallery, New York, New York, 1983
Ann Reid Gallery, Princeton, New Jersey, 1991
Citicorp Center, Princeton, New Jersey, 1992
Gallery Of Fine Art, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 2003
Noyes Museum of Art, Oceanville, New Jersey, 2010
Mavis Smith: Hidden Realities, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA, 2012
Major Group Exhibitions
New York Art Expo, New York, New York, 1980
Alan Stone Gallery, New York, New York, 1982 Basel International Art Fair, Basel, Switzerland, 1988
Phillips' Mill Annual Art Exhibition, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1998, 2007 - 2011
Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 2000
Artworks, Trenton, New Jersey, 2000
Bristol Myers Squibb, Lawrenceville, New Jersey, 2002
Ellarslie Museum, Trenton, New Jersey, 2002
Philadelphia Sketch Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2003
The Contemporary Eye, Michener Art Museum, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 2005
An Evolving Legacy: Twenty Years of Collecting at the Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2009
Mavis Smith has written and illustrated ten children's books and has illustrated more than 70 children's books.