STATEMENT Emily Sullivan Smith’s work explores the push and pull between the natural world and human behavior. Implicit in the pieces is a balance, harmony and disharmony between the self-sustaining actions found in both the natural and human worlds. How human convenience, privilege and personal choice might push against the benevolent orders of nature. A quote from poet Mary Oliver conjures the sentiment of the work and the relationship of the viewer to it. Oliver writes in her essay, Upstream, “Attention is the beginning of devotion”
Sullivan Smith employs cultural and material knowledge from viewers to realize her ideas. Her work contains undertones of environmental activism, inviting viewers to infer their own relationship to the topics at hand. Individual histories, experiences and beliefs play a critical role in unraveling and tying together meaning. She often uses labor as a material, inviting audiences to take her labor into account as a surrogate for the labors of nature. Several of her pieces have taken years to complete or the assistance of other artists working in community. These efforts are intended to invoke the human understanding of work and time, calling attention to the fragility of the natural world and the dissonance between human and environmental timelines. In her practice, Sullivan Smith pulls from the global effects of humans on the natural world and also from her own small piece of land in suburban Ohio, where she fosters organic gardens, wild flower patches and her own awareness of the effects of her lifestyle on an individual scale. Travel and experiences in a variety of climates and micro environments from Iceland, the Pacific Northwest and the Eastern Sea Board to the mono-culture of her local grocery store all shape and effect her practice. Walking, deep looking and awareness of the effect of her senses on her psyche are the guiding forces behind her work.
BIO Emily Sullivan Smith is an Assistant Professor and the Foundations Coordinator at the University of Dayton’s Department of Art and Design. She is also a Sustainability Scholar with the Hanley Sustainability Institute at the University of Dayton. Her studio practice is interdisciplinary including sculpture, fibers and printmaking, focusing on the effects of human behavior on the natural world. Recent exhibitions include; solo exhibition,W O/A NDER at ArtLink Gallery in Fort Wayne, IN, Invitational, Natural Expressions and Duo / Trio at the Riffe Gallery in Columbus, OH, FORM x 4 at Roy G Biv Gallery in Columbus and, Heavy Metal at the Akron Art Museum in Akron, OH. Upcoming, Sullivan Smith will have a solo exhibition at the Springfield Museum of Art in Fall, 2020. Sullivan Smith served on the board of Integrative Teaching International, has been featured on the Podcast, Positive Space, and views both art making and teaching as an all encompassing and integrated human experience.