One person’s trash can be another person’s treasure. For Columbia-based artist Kirkland Smith, a lifelong goal of painting in oil took a very different turn when she discovered trash – or more importantly, it’s potential for creating art with a very definite statement about the American consumerist obsession. Her assemblages of a mind-boggling array of “found” objects create works of art with amazing depth and impact.
Although classically trained in both painting and ceramics, with a degree in Studio Arts from the University of South Carolina, Smith’s interest in working with found objects arose from an environmental landscape art contest she entered in 2008. The contest’s challenge was to illustrate an environmental issue with a work of art.
Recruiting friends and family members – including her school-age children – to bring her cast-off objects such as bottle caps, small toys, discarded remote control devices, make-up pots, buttons and other mostly small plastic objects, Smith began amassing an inventory of material. In the artist’s talented hands, these items take the place of paint and other media, coming together to form astonishingly complex images: portraits of well-known celebrities such as Steve Jobs and Marilyn Monroe; landscapes and creatures from the natural world; or multicolored, kaleidoscope-like figures.
Smith’s assemblages have been displayed individually at environmental conferences and meetings, but more often are collected and displayed simply for their aesthetic appeal. She has come to see her recycling-into-art as a form of redemption, finding beauty in unexpected places and turning the discarded and unwanted items into something new and beautiful. She notes that her work has given her a new perspective on our disposable society, and adds that “what we throw away says a lot about who we are, but what we choose to cherish and protect says even more in the end.”
An exhibition of 21 of her works, titled Kirkland Smith: Assemblages, is on display now through Thursday, April 21, 2016 at the Myrtle Beach Art Museum. Gallery hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, visit the website here.