Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One Road, Two Paths @ Salt Creek Artworks, Part I: Randall Smith

Randall Smith photographs tableaus. The word comes from the French diminutive for 'table', sometimes meaning 'picture'. In this case, they consist of table-top arrangement of figures, etc. which are photographed. The photograph is the finished work.

View of Randall Smith Exhibit @ Salt Creek Artworks

 Randall is based in Orlando, and works out of a studio in Winter Park.  He told me his work tells stories, but don't anticipate neat linear narratives. They're more like the way we experience dreams, in symbols, often with multiple interpretations. The viewer more or less synthesizes his own story as a combination of  what is in the photographs and his own psyche.  

Randall Smith, "Midnight Fairy's Moonlight Ride"

 In the above picture there are tropes that appear in other R. Smith pictures. Styx crossing-worthy boats, in this case being drawn by blue ( a favorite Smith color) birds. The cave-looking wall, Randall told me, is one of the few times he's created a CGI backdrop.  Note how the Fairy's boat rests on dice. An older, Virgin Mary-like figure observes or officiates from the shore as the fairy rides by.  Two sailfish jump behind the three bird train, their bodies arced. They pull the boat via the ubiquitous red string that appears in so many of these images.

Randall Smith, "Often Traveled, Seldom Used"

In "Often Traveled, Seldom Used", we find another procession, this one being pulled by camels, three of them, and an implied fourth one, since the red string that binds disappears off the frame's left edge. There are three cocktail umbrellas (which gives you a clue as how big the tableau was) and three stars with red circles behind them on the far side of the camels. There's a pigeon, and in the foreground, two small figurines apparently wrangling the red string.

Randall Smith, "Journey"

 In "Journey", a white female doll body rests on what at first glance appears to be a bier, but it is another boat, moored in mid-air by the red string. Below, about a half dozen firemen hold a wire as if trying to construct an infinity figure. Above the body a proportionally large apple (dream of Avalon?) floats weightlessly.

Randall Smith, "A Drifting Ride in Morning's Mist

 In "A Drifting Ride In Morning's Mist", we come across yet another procession. The red string is leashed to the bird apparently powering the vehicle this mythological female personage rides. In the back is the blue that Smith uses often in his background. We also see the Golden Leaf, which appears in several other images.

Randall Smith, "Destiny Unfolding"

That blue can clearly be seen in "Destiny Unfolding", in the background. The red string (passion?) threads through this picture also. A winged prince-like figure holds a proportionally large feathered dart with the red string attached to it.  On the right is a Lotus. 

 On the right is "Divided Destiny". A clear plastic or glass couple stand in the lower middle foreground. two blue birds holding the (you guessed!) red string in their beaks, which is roping the couple in. The Stars make an appearance just behind the figures. The bluebirds are held up by red triangles. The Gold Leaf towers behind them. the die is there, this time turned to the "1" to us. There's a cocktail umbrella behind one blue bird, and a fighter plane swooping behind everything in the deep blue background. Randall Smith has created a fusion of personal and extant mythologies, sometimes light and whimsical, and a few millimeters over, in the same image, they are sobering. For more of his work, see here: [Link].

Tableaux have a rich tradition in Florida photography. Robert Fichter was doing them back in the 70's, and still is, as are some of his students. [Link] . Suzanne Camp Crosby also worked with two-dimensional tableaus since the early 80s, perhaps earlier. [Link].

Congratulations to Randall Smith, Salt Creek Artworks, and Lance Rodgers for a good show.

Part II, the work of Cheryl Mackey-Smith will be up soon...

--- Luis

 One Road, Two Paths @ Salt Creek Artworks - Photography by Randall Smith, mixed-media art by Cheryl Mackey-Smith.

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