Paul Anthony Smith was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. He relocated to Miami, Florida, where he attended New World School of the Arts. Smith received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2010. His work, frequently autobiographical, also explores histories within contemporary scenarios. Smith is a recent resident artist of the Anderson Ranch Art Center, Snowmass Village, Colorado and the Charlotte Street Foundation’s Urban Culture Project studio residency Program, Kansas City, Missouri. His first solo show at New York’s Zieher Smith Gallery commences in the Spring 2013. He lives and works in Kansas City.
FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?
PAUL ANTHONY SMITH: A day or night in my studio begins with music really close to my work station listening to anything from jazz, hip-hop, folk, dancehall reggae, etc. I like to set the mood. I like to have my marking utensils and books in close proximity to where I’m working so I can grab what I need at the moment of flux.
PAS: It’s sad, but my computer is one of my sentimental database of images, text and files. Some days I’ll look through thousands of images I’ve collected over the years. I also have a number of family photograph albums that I’ve kept on my studio table which I’ll skim through, looking at the history of my family and where I’m coming from. (At Right: Young Paul eating cake)
FYD: What is your favorite or most required work tool?
PAS: This varies. My work has recently shifted in direction using a new technique I call picotaging. For that technique, I like to use a ceramic needle tool which has the necessary point needed to remove the top layer of paper, it’s like collaging but it’s not. It’s the only tool of its kind I own, which I’ve shaped to fit my grip.
FYD: I understand you have a pretty great day job. What does this entail?
PAS:Last July I was hired by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art as a contracted Preparator along with a Photographer and Archiver. The Museum received an NEA Grant to digitize their entire collection which consists of over 6,000 photographs. Known as rapid imaging, it’s a process of quickly taking digital images of high quality suitable for an online presence.
I set goals for myself and watch them manifest.
FYD: What is the most precious or interesting material you’ve come across?
PAS: I’ve handled some of the greatest photographs by artists such as Irving Penn, Joseph Sterling, Harry Callahan, Alfred Stieglitz, Francesca Woodman, Frederick Sommer, Diane Arbus, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Edward and Brett Weston, Aaron Siskind, Carl Van Vechten and many others. I’m exposed to some of the most incredible pieces of world history through the museum’s current and ongoing acquisition of photographs. I have to say that I love my job.
FYD: Talking about your own work, elaborate on your process for pieces like St. Andrew and 13 others.
PAS: St Andrew and 13 others refers to all 14 Parishes/ States of Jamaica. This series is looking at the country after receiving independence in 1962 and contrasting that idea with the Rastafarian movement of the 1970s, which creates the culture that occupy Jamaica today. It’s amazing to learn the history of my country and understand a place where my ancestors lived.
I’m drawn to capturing the essence of who my people are whether it be through a person’s posture or gaze.
FYD: What artists inspire you?
PAS: 30 Americans at the Rubell Family Collection, Miami, has been one of the greatest exhibits I can recall. I feel those artist are relevant to my work and interest.
FYD: Hailing from Jamaica and Miami, how did you wind up in the Midwest and what is your outlook on the art scene there?
PAS: I attended school at the Kansas City Art Institute after leaving high school. Growing up in Miami, I heard Kansas City was a city of brick buildings and tumbleweeds. I visited the city during the summer of 2006, and it wasn’t a bad experience. Since 2007, I’ve seen the art scene grow tremendously for both the visual and performing arts. Kansas City’s growth is the reason why I stayed after school which allowed my work to grow as an artist. After school, I was a resident artist with the Charlotte Street Foundation’s Urban Culture Project residency program (from 2010-2012). This allowed me to create something for myself where I had time to develop my work.
I have to say that I love my job.
FYD: You are young, which is great. How do you continue to develop as an artist?
PAS: I set goals for myself and watch them manifest. It’s great to keep things open and learn to grow and achieve those goals one day at a time. I like to stay focused and work on crafting Paul Anthony Smith. My work is a product of who I am and how I’ve come to see the world.
FYD: How did your growing up in Jamaica help influence your work?
PAS: At nine, I moved to Miami and remain fascinated whenever I find similarities crossing the culture. Jamaica’s Island vibes are hard to explain aside from the relaxation that the world knows. It’s the food, music and lifestyle. I use many colors natural of the region, but I’m drawn to capturing the essence of who my people are whether it be through a person’s posture or gaze. I’ve thought of traveling back to do some video work. I also research via the internet, finding things about the country I was never told and histories contrasting those idea’s with Jamaica’s modern-day scenarios.
PAS: If I could be anywhere at the moment it would be in my home Country of Jamaica, eating some Ackee and Codfish (see photo right/recipe here) with a few slices of roasted breadfruit and mango juice on the side. My Mom would be my dining companion, I don’t get to see her very often and it would be great to spend some time with her over a great meal and a slice of Rum cake. It’s the only thing I usually ask of her — a slice of Rum Cake.
FYD: What are your top three places to travel on your list?
PAS: This year, I’m hoping to travel to Venice, Italy for the 55th Venice Biennale, Istanbul for the Istanbul Biennial and possibly London, England. If all goes as planned, Jamaica would be great. There are additional places on my list but for now they must wait.