• David Gibson

Angie Arlene Smith | Shadows of the Heart

In the tradition of the artist there are many aspects which make up a picture, many procedures and specialties which combine to create that specific illusion of reality called artifice. Yet not every artist is called upon to master them all, not even to become fascinated with a few of them. Some take it upon themselves to discern the qualities which prove the importance of only one specialty. For Angie Arlene Smith that has been landscape, or rather the paradox of perspectival contingencies which we usually regard as the backdrop for dramatic action. Smith is fascinated with the pictorial qualities which construct a scene possessed of mystery, foreboding, and complexity even when there are no persons present.

But there are no simple pastoral scenes here, everything is angle and shadow. Sometimes one little element of the picture seems to be coming to life, as if a tree branch or an outcropping of rocks were so vividly drawn they were beginning to move of their own volition. At other times we are certain, given the angles of the scenes, that no one passive or uninteresting could possibly inhabit them. There must be a conflict unfolding in such a place as she draws for us.

In one image a flower or shell like structure sits at the edge of a cliff, looking as if it is about to give birth to a new creature. There is no movement, no narrator to set the scenario up for us. The “pod” seems to balance on the edge of a cliff or float down a stream that’s about to pour out over the edge into illicit depth. Will it open and reveal its secrets, will it be dashed on the rocks below, or will it somehow float onward, opening not for us but for others?

In another image a strange mawkish hut sits amidst cragged rocks, holes in its roof showing it to be empty, but who knows? We can’t see everything from where the artist has situated us. Everything in the image is hardness and sharpness and there is a breathless quality to the very air surrounding the physical elements presented here.

In Smith’s largest work, she depicts a scene that is so complex it is nearly a microcosm. We see what appears to be a pier, with columns standing in deep water and streetlights barely illuminating the walkway above. Curving steps lead up from the water’s edge to a jumble of paved paths, winding caves, and above them all, an aerie from which a stranger looks out—but not over us, rather into the pale distance, into further areas of mystery yet undiscovered. At the far left side of this scene, following the pier, is a sheer rock face broken only by a high door with what look like prison bars inside, and above a set of empty cages and still further up, two more openings with craggy orifices, the shadows of which resemble figures; and with steps that seemingly lead nowhere. Smith is a spinner of tales which have a mastery of dramaturgy at their core. Her images direct us to a place where knowledge is not as important as adventure; her shadows are the corridors of our own hearts.

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