Lodi: Natalie Smith at SCA Contemporary

Nearing the end of her stint at the University of New Mexico, Illinois transplant, Natalie Smith (NAP #105) unveiled her most recent body of work, Lodi, at SCA Contemporary in Albuquerque. Heavily influenced by craft and design practices, Lodi references her affinity for everyday objects, images and forms and belief that paintings can be “arenas in which anything is possible.” – Claude Smith Albuquerque/Santa Fe Contributor

Natalie Smith | Victoria & Albert, 2014, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches; image courtesy of the artist

Using what she refers to as a “hunter-gatherer” approach in her practice, her way of researching, discovering and re-interpreting pre-existing forms is heavily reliant on her keenly observant nature in day-to-day life. As an ardent collector of objects and images, her paintings become repositories of these visual forms she selectively pieces together from a variety of sources: art, craft, design, the Internet and obscure stylistic patterns that could be wall paper, architectural details or even commercially omnipresent graphic design elements. In Lodi, the result is an ambitious body of work in which each painting becomes a singular object, each dictated by specific circumstances rather than a ubiquitous process or approach.

Natalie Smith | Sheet Set, 2013, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches; image courtesy the artist

Natalie Smith | Trixie, 2014, oil on canvas, 82 x 72 inches; image courtesy the artist

Natalie Smith | Daisy Gate, 2014, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches; image courtesy the artist

At times, her paintings seem as though they are constructed just as much as they are painted–carefully built to somehow contain the mysteriously familiar elements that fluctuate between hard-edged, mindful precision and painterly inclination. In a recent conversation we joked about Newton’s Third Law of Motion and how she feels inclined at times to counter each carefully considered decision with an opposite one, flirting with moments of unpredictability and impulse. Only recently has she mediated some of these spontaneous inclinations through digital processes–Photoshop for example–she cites as having played a role in helping her better organize her thoughts, arrange visual elements and make decisions without having to start over.

Natalie Smith | Orphan Sun, 2014, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches; image courtesy the artist

Natalie Smith | Beanstalk, 2014, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches; image courtesy the artist

In Uppsula, what could be a swatch of wallpaper is transformed through large brushstrokes and meandering lines. In her exhibition material, Smith cites the ribbon-like, geometric border of the Sierra Nevada beer logo as her inspiration for Pink.  The silhouetted vegetal portion that comprises the backdrop for Beanstalk would be equally at home in the fabric section at Ikea. It’s precisely these encounters with familiar, quotidian forms that underscore her ideas of hybridity with respect to painting and design, and perhaps even advocate for a more intertwined understanding between art and everyday life.

Natalie Smith | Uppsala, 2014, oil on canvas, 64 x 59 inches; image courtesy the artist


Natalie Smith was born in Chicago, IL in 1986. She received her BFA at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and spent a year in the BA Studio Course at Goldsmiths College in London. Natalie relocated to Albuquerque to pursue her MFA in 2011, and is currently in her final semester at the University of New Mexico. Her work has recently been featured in New American Paintings MFA Issue #105, the University of New Mexico Art Museum, Tamarind Institute, and the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, NM.

Claude Smith is an arts administrator and educator



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