Category Archives: Political Art

Jean Smith on Political Art

From my post on my regular FaceBook page

Political art. I sometimes think my work [paintings] should be more political. Political in a more overt way.

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Jean Smith self-portrait age 13 (1973)

I started painting portraits (in my room) at the very loaded age of 13. I looked in the mirror and made translations that flew in the face of what models in magazines looked like. My dad, by this point, was no longer an ad agency art director. He was painting large abstracts and watercolor landscapes, and doing freelance commercial art jobs in his studio in the back yard. My mom (an art school graduate) was painting still life from nature in her studio. Neither of them painted portraits at that time.

Fast forward to a point in the early 00s when I took 11 x 17″ laser copies of those teenage self-portraits on tour and put them up at Mecca Normal shows. There was a night at the Smell in LA where I could see them, my teenage faces, from the stage while I was singing songs from The Family Swan album. Songs about my family in those years. I realized (while I was singing) that I had inadvertently found a way to talk to my teenage self, to offer an adult perspective (mine) to her.

In current times, between the deaths of my parents, (with my dad losing his marbles and the difficult nature of being around while this happens, trying to help him and protect my own marbles etc.) it seems like painting faces (and all the historic energy involved here) is prit near the best thing I can be doing. It’s political in the way that finding something that works, something that’s right, fairly early in life is political (self-expression) and then returning to it years later for some of the same reasons is political.

Comment on the post:
I think of pretty much everything I’ve ever seen you do as being political. Maybe the portraits aren’t specifically “political” in content, but the motivation behind them – $100 paintings to avoid having a day job and to work towards a free artist residency program sure is! The art and music and writing and living are all congruent expressions of your political integrity. Or to paraphrase Godard: …not to make “political” films, but to make films politically.” – Steve Peters, the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center, home to the Wayward Music Series, Seattle

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Man Thinks Woman

Snippet of “Man Thinks Woman” at Tobi’s birthday

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