True colors

Hope Smith impresses with composition but disappoints with repetition

It really bothers me when artists state the obvious. When an artist names a piece “Woman Twisting,” and then I see a woman turning away in the painting, I feel cheated. I don’t need my hand to be held. And when an artist names a piece “Dianne’s Back,” and the painting depicts a woman’s back, I tend to want to bolt out the door running.

As a devout lover of art, I want to be provoked, stimulated and attacked by the artist’s work. Hope Smith’s collection of female figures, Women in Mood, currently on display at the Metro Gallery inside Reno City Hall, begins to stimulate, but at times, her repetition of images and the problematic naming of her pieces detracts from her work.

But despite the flaws in Smith’s exhibit, her balance, choice of color and composition work wonderfully at times.

“Dianne’s Back,” oil on canvas, creates a reflective, contemplative mood. Only one eye and part of Dianne’s nose are revealed in this piece. This technique of only revealing a little is something Smith does in many of her pieces, helping her balance the images, giving the audience fresh compositions to admire. The technique also creates a strong mood in her pieces.

The contrast in this piece is very effective. Smith chooses a deep purple to blend with a flat black for her background. Dianne’s back is bathed in light, glistening against Smith’s swirls of purple and black.

“Women in Red Dress,” gouache on paper, is another one of Smith’s images that distracts in the beginning because of the title. That’s just what the painting is: an image of a woman in a red dress.

The sexy woman is sprawled on the ground with a tight-fitting red cocktail dress caressing her body’s curves. Smith dramatizes color and line to emphasize mood in her posing women. Splashes of blue highlight the creases in the red dress, like a dance club’s strobe lights blinking off the woman as she passes by the bar. The effect gives the image a rich texture.

Smith streaks the arms, legs and faces of her women with color. This technique is one of the freshest approaches to figurative painting I’ve seen. It forces the audience to explore the color and line applied to the flesh of her figures. It puts these woman on pedestals, not as objects, but as beings of substance. Smith’s women are sexy and smart at the same time.

“Woman in Brown” is tightly composed—the posture of the woman is very inviting. Strong balance and color placement makes this one of the most interesting pieces in Smith’s collection. The blue and red highlights marking the woman’s flesh contrast perfectly against the browns. The audience is forced to spend time surveying this piece, and the silky fluid composition is addictive.

Unfortunately, the stellar pieces in the exhibit are stained by some of the collection’s incompetence. “Dianne w/Blue Hair” seems to be a repetitive image. It would work if there were a purpose to the repetition, but I can’t find a reason. The pose is almost identical to “Dianne’s Back.” The only differences in these pieces are the scale and color, as “Dianne w/Blue Hair” is filled with warmer and brighter colors than “Dianne’s Back.” Otherwise there is no distinct difference.

Aside from the problems with Smith’s work, the artist seems to understand composition and color at an expert level. The fresh approach to dramatizing line and color is nice. It seems Smith may have lost focus when arranging her collection for exhibition. But she seems to be on her way to becoming a strong vision in Reno’s artistic community.