Interview with Caleb Smith

Welcome back!  We hope you've enjoyed all of the work in this month's show, Emergence, including artist, Caleb Smith.  We had the pleasure of getting to know a bit more about Caleb, and we're very pleased to have his pieces Mint Garage and Three Men Sailing in the show.

Mint Garage by Caleb Smith

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
My name is Caleb Smith, a painter and mixed media artist, who recently moved from Richmond, VA to Boston, MA to earn my MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. My work focuses on themes of banality, melancholy, and white-collar culture. In the paintings featured on Mist, I appropriated imagery from photographs found in magazines from the 1960’s, chosen primarily for their color. I abstracted the elements from these sources by painting my recollection of them rather than from the sources themselves. So the paintings aren’t supposed to be exact copies.

 Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
LIFE magazines and books, stock photographs, and advertisements I see on the street. Specifically my inspiration for color comes from outdated media, like early RGB and CMYK printing or VHS tapes.

 What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Coffee and some music. Wine is a good tool outside of the studio for generating ideas.

 What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them?
Right now, balancing intuition with analyses.  A painting can become precious, and then nothing changes, so it doesn’t develop into an interesting piece.  I’ve found that  in order to get prevent this, you have to create a disruption. When I hit this type of obstacle, I paint over everything that isn’t important. I’m left with only the areas I absolutely need. From this point I have new freedoms and relationships to explore.

 Three Men Sailing by Caleb Smith

Three Men Sailing by Caleb Smith

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?  
Banality, Melancholy, White-Collar, Irony, Humour, and Nostalgia.

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
I can’t really relate to a lot of artists in terms of their bio’s or life, but when I walk through museums and see their paintings I relate to how they painted. I think you can tell a lot about a painter from their paintings, whether they are sincere or showy.

I definitely have role model, many of them being the artists I took classes with in undergrad. I know because I constantly quote them when talking about art. But I’m concerned they might read this and then any future interactions would be awkward for me.

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?
I can’t narrow down one piece of advice, but I have always appreciated advice about “making great art” rather than “making it as an artist”.