Featured Artist Member

Featured Artist Member honors the artist members of Berkeley Art Center, highlighting the breadth and variety of mediums, processes and concepts engaged by our community. Only artists whose memberships are current will be considered. To become a member, please sign up HERE. To fill out our Artist Member Informational Survey , click HERE.

Featured Artist July 2018

Sally Smith

Sally K. Smith grew up in Utah where she spent a lot of time looking at mountains and sagebrush.  Sally received her B.A. in music and human biology from Stanford University. Following college she worked in Berlin as a teacher and translator, then earned a law degree at the University of Utah.  After working as a lawyer in San Francisco and Boston, she became a full time artist.  Sally studied drawing and oil painting at the Cambridge Center Studio School in Massachusetts and printmaking at City College of San Francisco.  Smith's work can be found in art collections worldwide including the Hanjin Shipping Company, Seoul, Korea, and private collections in Berlin, Cologne, Zurich, Boston, and the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Artist Statement

I steal matter from the world around me. The history and integrity of my materials shapes my art. My art also inspires me to seek materials. For example, for a series of paintings depicting the ruins of charcoal kilns in Utah, I created charcoal from juniper, one of the woods burned in the kilns. For a series of drawings depicting Native American ruins, I made charcoal with the paper bound laws that protect the ruins. Conversely, I created a series of soot drawings inspired by the soot itself. The soot was harvested from experiments studying the formation of soot molecules. The soot medium inspired the composition and path of the drawings. My series of food related charcoal drawings was also inspired by the material. For example, a drawing using charcoal made from peanuts was inspired by the tactile and creamy quality of the charcoal.

In many instances I am inspired by both the material as well as the subject matter. For example, in my Moscow Bunnies series I combined Playboy Magazine, Trump’s Art of the Deal, and Aunt Jemima Syrup to create an alloy charcoal. The jarring mix of charcoal enabled me to make black crystal-like marks, transparent marks, and brown smudgy marks on pristine paper. The origins of the matter inspired humor (bunny ears), disgust (finger print type smudges), beauty (black crystalline ovals) and resilience (the broad angelic whiteness of the bristol vellum paper and the white painted maple frame).

My Burn Rate Series pieces are also inspired by both material as well as subject matter. The Agnes Martin type lines are simply a means of displaying the variegated coppers, blacks and browns of the burned dollar bills. Yet the lines also bring to mind a bar code, as well as the weave of a dollar bill, or a stack of dollar bills. Other Burn Rate pieces resemble ashen coins, symmetrical in part and also random or organic like a moth. These pieces are created with the template of a worn out sandpaper disk, a tool of manual labor.

Similarly, many of my Calorie Project pieces combine both material and subject matter as inspiration. Hamburger is loosely inspired by the tactile marks of cave painting as well as the actual oily and crumbly consistency of the charcoal. Sunflower Seeds displays energetic organic lines, each of which is quite simply the length created by one soft and easily manipulated sunflower seed charcoal. The seed determined marks intersect and radiate outward like the inside of a large sunflower.

I majored in music and was a concert pianist. Music is linear in time. I like my art to have a linear quality so that the viewer experiences the passage of time, as if someone is reading a story or listening to a Bach prelude. Mark making reveals the history of my encounter with an image and the materials I am shaping. The journey itself should be visible to the viewer. If I choose to move or change a mark, I will frequently leave traces of what came before. Sometimes I use a vacuum to remove and shape parts of the image. This manipulation and removal is part of the temporal journey.

I treat the matter in my art as borrowed and returned. The images, too, are borrowed and returned. The intrigue and anxiety our transience provokes is my springboard for manipulating minerals and fibers, carbon and oil. Graphite becomes diamonds and diamonds become graphite. Trees become charcoal and charcoal becomes trees. And a meteorite might end up as a tube of nickel yellow. There is a fine line between what we see and what we become. I embrace this tenuousness by shaping it in my art.

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Click on images to enlarge.


Poppies and Wheat, oil and handmade charcoal (derived from unsweetened cocoa powder) on canvas 48x36"

Hamburger, handmade charcoal (derived from 68 calories of grilled hamburger) on paper 39.5 x 38”

Towards the Pacific, oil on linen 25.25 x 37"

Sunflower Seeds, handmade charcoal (derived from 93 calories of sunflower seeds) on paper 48 x 39”

Sunflower Seeds, handmade charcoal (derived from 93 calories of sunflower seeds) on paper 48 x 39”

For a list of previously featured Member Artists, click the link for the Index of Featured Artists.