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 Shirley Thomson Smith  (1929 - )

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Lived/Active: Colorado/Oklahoma/Missouri      Known for: sculptor-abstract female figure

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Ad Code: 3
Shirley Thomson-Smith
from Auction House Records.
Winter Morning
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for her stoic portrayals of women, Shirley Thomson Smith creates sculpted figures that seem a combination of Indian, Mexican and African, silent and thoughtful, suggesting the strength and endurance of humanity.

She was deeply influenced by a move she and her husband made in 1953 from Oklahoma to Durango, Colorado. Traveling into the Southwest, she came into contact with Native Americans, especially Navajo women, whom she found fascinating. But it was about five years later, after a return move to Oklahoma, that she started to include them as subject matter.

In 1980, she became a full-time sculptor, and in 1985 was accepted as a member of the National Academy of Western Art, only the fourth woman to have been admitted. She works with water-based clay, without armatures and without a model or preliminary sketch and photographs continuously while working. She has molds made locally and then ships the clay piece in the mold to the foundry. The final form evolves from her intuitive response to her material.

Shirley Thomson-Smith was born in 1929 in St. Louis, studied art at the University of Oklahoma Art School, lived in Durango, Colorado in the 1950's and early 60's. She has been a member of the National Academy of Western Art (N.A.W.A., now called Prix De West) since 1985.

She has observed American Indian, African and Hispanic women continuously for years and is able to portray their strength, grace and peace with an uncanny sense of presence and motion.

It all started back in 1980; she was then unhappily employed as a secretary and felt frustrated as an artist. "If I went through my whole life and never tried to make it as an artist, I'd always be disappointed in myself." When the frustration became unbearable, she finally got enough courage, quit her job and followed her heart and dream: to be an artist.

Through hard work (her goal was to sell one piece a month) blended with great talent, she was accepted as a member of the prestigious N.A.W.A. Since then, she has received national recognition and acclaims as one of the most sought-after sculptors producing today.

Shirley Thomson-Smith's sculptures can be found in many museums and private collections, especially throughout the Western United States, and is represented by fine art galleries and dealers from coast to coast, border to border, as well as in many of the better art shows.

"I want to continue to grow and create pieces that give enjoyment and pleasure to everyone that views them. I don't think we are ever so great that we can't learn. A true sculpture is one carved from stone." That is her next goal.

RENDEZVOUS 2001 at the Gilcrease Museum featured the works of Shirley Thomson-Smith in a show in April, 2001. It marked the occasion of a new era in the Rendezvous tradition that spans more than twenty years of showcasing distinguished contemporary American painters and sculptors, alongside a remarkable permanent collection of some of the greatest American artists of the past 200 years.

The Taos Gallery Scottsdale

Biography from Mark Sublette Modern:
Born in 1929 in St. Louis, Missouri, Shirley Thomson-Smith has created art deeply and profoundly influenced by the experience of living in Durango, Colorado and traveling through New Mexico. There she observed the powerful tradition of Native Americans and was particularly drawn to the strength, character and symbolic role of Native American women.

Of the Navajo women, who Smith got to know and respect, she has this to say: “I was fascinated by those women. Their message was a non-verbal transmission of thought, feeling and strength. I’ve always admired Mexican, African and Indian art. My figures are a synthesis of all these.”

Smith’s sculptures are boldly modern works, highly influenced by her understanding of early 20th-century American and European art. These powerful style icons of individual women or sympathetic groups radiate great sensitivity, love and a magic authority because of their presence and simplicity. They are matriarchs, Earth Mothers, but above all else they represent sensitivity, the women’s historical role as the cornerstone of society and the passivity, intuition and stoicism on which civilization depends for survival.

Strongly influenced by the formal abstract qualities and elegance of both modern art and tribal cultures, Smith’s bronze sculptures evolve from a dynamic syntheses of modern formal solutions to form, shape and surface and this keen understanding of traditional cultures and native art forms. The simplicity of their design and surface give them both a sense of authority as well as an expressive power. They convey pathos, dignity and organic strength in a position of repose. They demonstrate Smith’s great skill in handling materials and her studied technique.Dispensing with anatomical detail, Smith enhances the textural quality and strength of her figures by transforming raw materials into gently flowing human forms.

She works without a model or preliminary sketches; the final form evolves from her intuitive response to the material. Bronzes are cast by the lost-wax method at a nearby foundry, where Smith oversees the finishing touches: cleaning, chasing (embossing on metal) and applying of patina.

Smith studied art at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University. She is a lifetime member of the Oklahoma Sculptor society, National Academy of Western Art, associate member of the National Sculpture Society and founding member of American Women Artists and the West. Shirley’s work is represented in galleries and collections across America, and she is a participant and award winner of both national and regional competitions.

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