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 Dennis V. Smith  (1942 - )

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Lived/Active: Utah / Denmark      Known for: life-size garden and figurative sculpture, assemblage, poetry

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Dennis V Smith
An example of work by Dennis V. Smith
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
One of the active young, influential artists in Utah in the early 1960s, Dennis V Smith became "one of Utah's best-known sculptors", noted for his explorations of modernism including "fanciful assemblage pieces in the 1970s". (219). He also did impressionist sculpture portraits of children and women, often monumental in size and focused more on gesture and the way light played off the bronze than on the realistic form of the subject. In addition he became an etcher and a poet, and from 1983, devoted himself to oil painting. Most of his canvases are expressive in style, laden with bright, complementary colors, and autobiographical and metaphorical in theme. Many of his paintings have intertwined symbolism, and are self portraits of Smith's inner being with expression of dilemmas between childhood and adult perceptions.

In the 1960s, Dennis Smith was a graduate student in art at Brigham Young University and was part of a group of followers of art professor Dale Fletcher. Calling their philosophy "Art and Belief", they dedicated themselves to creating art focused on the truths of the Mormon faith. It was a deliberate turning away from New York centered styles and subjects, which were sweeping the American art world and which the Art and Belief artists regarded as depraved and denigrating of intended lofty purposes of artistic expression.

Specific art movements targeted were Pop Art with Andy Warhol's soup cans, sensual images of Marilyn Monroe, etc., and non-objective canvases with no obvious meaning including Geometric Abstraction and Abstract Expressionism.

In their artistic creations, Fletcher and his followers sought a combination or interweaving of religion and art. Emphasis was on the importance of studying the art of earlier civilizations, such as the Greeks and Egyptians, where religion motivated artists, whose work, in turn, reflected "sacred geometry" and "divine symmetry". (194-195)

In that setting Dennis Smith maintained some independence and asserted that "each artist must find his own way to produce what is most meaningful to him, rather than to expect the emergence of a common style." (195) In 1969, he and his peers that included Gary E Smith, Trevor Southey, Larry Prestwich and Michael Graves helped organize The First Annual BYU Festival of Mormon art. It was a success, and the following year was even better with the addition of music, drama, creative writing, dance and film.

In 1970, the group formalized their association as the North Mountain Artists Cooperative, taking their name from a mountain site in Alpine, in Utah County. The goal was a utopian community devoted to Mormon art with an art center and art school. For several years, the concept worked well. They acquired twelve acres of land for a sculpture park along Dry Creek, and built homes for themselves along Gamble Oak Circle. Because of the commitment of the participants and their mutual support system, members of the Artists Cooperative became "the first generation of Utah artists who could make their livelihood totally from their art". (208).

Eventually, the unity of the group disintegrated as the artists including Smith went in their own directions to pursue independent projects, but for him, the spiritual focus of his work was retained.

Vern Swanson, Robert Olpin and William Seifrit, Utah Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Now in the fourth decade of his career, Dennis Smith is a figurative sculptor, whose paintings subjects focus his childhood recollections of life in rural Utah. He was raised in Alpine, Utah, graduated from Brigham Young University, and attended the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen. Smith's work is on permanent display in twenty-six states and eight countries as well as American Embassies in Moscow and London.

In 1968, Smith set up his first studio in his father's old chicken coop and began to exhibit his sculpture professionally. He now works out of three studios. Working in wax and clay, he creates models that are then cast in bronze.

Although best known for his sculpture, the scope of Smiths' other interests is remarkably broad and deep. From his earliest days in graduate school, he has written poetry that reveals the same interwoven themes as his visual art. He has also published a book of poetry and a collection of essays illustrated with his line drawings titled "Meanderings".

Currently, there are 123 national and international public installations of Smith's sculptures. Some of the major installations include:

City of Glendale, AZ San Antonio Zoo, TX
Civic Center, Santa Fe Springs, CA Springville Art Museum, UT
1996 Olympic softball venue, Columbus, GA Vail Town Center, CO
International Airport, Salt Lake City, UT
Numerous hospital collections.

Foreign installations sites include:
English, Czech, and Russian-American Embassies
Ukraine, Japan, France
Rebild National Park, Denmark
Americakai Harbor, Copenhagen, Denmark

Written and submitted October 2004 by David Wilkinson, Fine-Art Professional. His source is the artist.

Biography from Knox Galleries:
Dennis V. Smith is as much a philosopher as he is an artist. His work is a window into whom he is and his views on life. Of him it is said that his impressionistic style captures his exuberance for life and embodies his passion for transcendence?expressed through the spontaneity of children, reflections of the past, and hopes for the future.

At the core of Dennis' work is the spirit of the human soul, often represented through the innocence of childhood. To Dennis, the child is a metaphor for life because children's lives, as they explore the world around them, parallel our lives as adults as we discover our identity in this universe.

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