Extraordinary/Ordinary, an exhibition of new photographs by Fort Worth artist Luther Smith, will be on display May 4 through June 17 at William Campbell Contemporary Art. An opening reception will be held Thursday, May 4, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The show will include nearly two dozen new color photographs consisting of everyday outdoor scenes shot in and around Fort Worth. The large scale of the prints, in conjunction with Smith’s ultra-amplified light and color and overt depth of field, create a microenvironment around each piece that allows viewers to more fully enter the visual spaces and interact with the subject matter.
Nature—in bloom and dormant—looms large in Extraordinary/Ordinary, both a nod to the splendor of unspoiled land and a symbol of freedom within a controlled, structured environment. A number of the compositions illuminate the simple beauty revealed in combinations of line, color, and texture found in the undeveloped landscape. Still others center on the natural spaces that abut neighborhoods and manmade structures, and how the two coexist physically and aesthetically.
Smith describes this collection of photographs as the manifestation of how his imagination would view the spaces, rather than a simple physical record of them. In fact, the work possesses a hyper-lucid, crystalline quality that transcends what we might disregard with the naked eye as the monotony of brush-filled, overgrown, suburban sprawl. It conceives of the outdoors as a dreamlike space, infusing otherwise mundane scenes with a mesmerizing allure. In turn, the images of familiar (if not overlooked) surroundings belie their origins with saturated colors and light that emphasize the complex arrays of organic and geometric shapes, along with layers of texture. Layers of history emerge as well, in overlapping strata of natural and manmade formations struggling for dominance.
“A literal, factual view of the world is less interesting than my spiritual response to it,” says Smith. “My response to color and light and the changes to the environment over time fuels my photography. I have an emotional attachment to plants, light, and nature.” As a result, this collection recalls time the artist spent as a child exploring the woods and farmland in rural Mississippi and Illinois. It reminds him of the innocence and simplicity of childhood, of the spaces children often inhabit. The pictures evoke a “spiritual connection to environmental space” for Smith, offering glimpses of an ideal past amid the tedium of the present.
Smith is as fascinated by the process of making photographs as he is by the content he presents. He has embraced new technology as of late, shooting with a digital camera and employing imaging software to create photos that are at once contemporary signposts and mementos of his past. In this manner, he engages the medium on its most advanced level, as a whole new art form. According to Smith, “Photos aren’t found, but made.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
A highly acclaimed photographer, Luther Smith has exhibited his work across Texas and throughout the United States for nearly four decades. His photographs have appeared in local and regional venues in Fort Worth, Dallas, Arlington, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Waco, to name a few. Nationally, he has exhibited work from California to Maine, including venues in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Santa Fe, and St. Louis, among others.
Smith’s photographs appear in many public collections, among them the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Library of Congress, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, Fidelity Investments, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Illinois State Museum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Pacific Telesis Collection in San Francisco, the Phoenix Arts Commission, and the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.
His photographs have appeared in many books, including Photography 9, Photography 8, and Photography 7, published by Prentice Hall; the Trinity River, a monograph published by TCU Press; and the Book of 35mm Photography, by Curtin & London. Periodicals that have included Smith’s work include Fort Worth Magazine, D Magazine, Chicago Magazine, American Artist Magazine, and Mademoiselle, to name a few.
Smith has taught photography for more than thirty-five years, and began his career at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He joined the faculty of TCU in 1983, and currently serves as professor of art there. Luther Smith received his MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and his BFA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
ABOUT THE GALLERY
Founded in 1974 by William and Pam Campbell, William Campbell Contemporary Art exhibits high-quality contemporary art in a variety of media, including paintings, works on paper, mixed-media constructions, photography, prints, ceramics, and sculpture. By exhibiting nationally recognized artists, along with new and emerging talent, the gallery aims to nurture an awareness and appreciation of the exciting diversity found in contemporary art.