Leon Smith and the Importance of Wonderment

Carrie Haddad Gallery
Sep 22, 2017 6:49PM

As indicated by his inventive, spirited sculptures, Australian-born artist Leon Smith's childlike energy knows no bounds.

It was Leon Smith's first career as a dentist that taught him to make carvings and moldings over 40 years ago. Since then, the Australian-born artist has exhibited an innate flair for creating both large and small sculptures, with his sense of humor (and that of his wife, Elaine) at the epicenter of the playful designs and titles. Riffing on simple, abstract shapes gives him the freedom to discover new forms and ideas.

"The opposing qualities of form are what engage me most. Balance versus precariousness, stability versus movement, and the organic versus the inorganic. I'm partial to the double take, the paradox, but only if the work's formal qualities can sustain interest and delight over a long period of time," he explains.

One of many shelves in Leon Smith's studio

Over the years, Smith has accumulated a wide-ranging body of small and charming works--sometimes abstract, other times representational, and on many occasions, surreal. A sharp and timeless wit forms the foundation of these works, from sinking ships in bottles to precariously balanced abstract pieces.

With the help of studio assistant and fabricator John Brunese, many of Smith's spirited prototypes have been adapted for the outdoors. These larger works are as inventive and humorous as their tabletop counterparts, and are frequently complimented by serene landscapes--especially that of "Smith Hill", the Ancramdale, NY sculpture park where Smith lives with his wife and keeps his studio. In many cases, the negative space within Smith's sculptures gives way to breathtaking views of the Hudson Valley.

Leon Smith, Horizontal Tree, Ancramdale, NY

Leon Smith, Cardinal, 72 x 72 x 60 inches, painted steel

Smith adopts his natural surroundings as media, frequently carving forms into tree trunks or building upon them with frames and other sculpted addenda. One especially mind-boggling example is Horizontal tree, a convincing illusion of a tree growing parallel to the ground. With Smith's work, the scientifically implausible becomes the material truth, even if it took some serious enterprise to get there.

With his lighthearted works, Smith  invites the viewer to consider the importance of wonderment, which is so easily forgotten in adulthood. As indicated by his sculpture, Smith's childlike energy knows no bounds. He may be 83 years old, but hold on tight when he drives you around in his golf cart; those of us at Carrie Haddad Gallery can testify that touring the grounds of "Smith Hill" is no less thrilling than riding around with the Mad Hatter at Disneyland. Gallery owner Carrie Haddad met the artist back in the late '90s and she admits, "I love Leon and his work just as much today as I did back then."

Leon Smith, Circles, 60 inches (diameter) x 13 inches (depth), painted aluminum

Carrie Haddad Gallery will be hosting its third "Smith Hill Studio Visit" on Saturday, October 14 and Sunday, October 15, 2017 from 12 - 2 p.m. To RSVP, contact the gallery by phone: +1 (518) 828-1915.

Opening image: Leon Smith sitting on his permanent installation,          The Green Chair, at the Roecliff Jansen Community Library, Hillsdale, NY

Carrie Haddad Gallery