2010-05-20 / News

Island artist remembered through retrospective of his work

By Holly Benton

Late island artist Dwight S. Smith visited China last year to greet the factory workers who put together his design for the Concorde Swan sculpture, which will be featured in tonight’s retrospective of Smith’s work at the Jamestown Philomenian Library. Smith’s work will be on display at the library through July 31. Late island artist Dwight S. Smith visited China last year to greet the factory workers who put together his design for the Concorde Swan sculpture, which will be featured in tonight’s retrospective of Smith’s work at the Jamestown Philomenian Library. Smith’s work will be on display at the library through July 31. A man of many talents, the late Dwight S. Smith of Jamestown left behind a true artist’s legacy.

Now, all islanders have a chance to view part of that legacy.

A retrospective of his work, staged by the Friends of Dwight Smith, is currently on display at the Jamestown Philomenian Library. An opening reception will take place tomorrow, Friday, May 21, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the library’s meeting room.

Smith, who was a Portsmouth art teacher for 34 years, studied art at the University of Maine at Orono and earned his Master’s degree at Rhode Island College. A truly diverse artist, Smith worked in a variety of mediums, including kinetic and garden sculptures.

His wife, Judy, spoke lovingly about her husband – and his love of art.

“He did just about everything you can think of,” she said. “He was sort of a multi-media kind of guy. He did watercolor, oil, acrylic, sculpture, silkscreen – you name it, he did it.”

The retrospective, which includes a great deal of the work he created as an adult, will portray Smith’s multifaceted artistic abilities.

“He was primarily an abstract artist, but certainly a lot of what is represented at the library is not abstract, it’s representational,” Smith said. “He ran the gamut with that, too.”

Those who attend the opening reception will see one of Smith’s kinetic garden sculptures, which he created through HypnArtic Artwork, a company that produces high-quality wind sculptures.

Judy Smith said that when a friend of her husband’s was looking for an artist to design these kinetic sculptures, Smith decided to take on the challenge.

“My husband thought, ‘Hmmm, I could probably do that.’ And, in fact, he did,” she said.

The Friends of Dwight Smith, an offshoot of the larger Conanicut Island Art Association, began putting together the retrospective approximately three months ago, according to CIAA member and Smith’s close friend, Ben Buglio. The display will be a true portrayal of Smith’s life and character, which Buglio described as being incredibly versatile.

“He was almost a renaissance man,” Buglio said. “You could talk to him about anything. I was a chemist, and I could talk to him about physics, about chemistry, I could talk to him about religion, I could talk to him about news, archeology…and he was very well read. He knew a lot about a lot of things.”

The Friends of Dwight Smith was formed several years ago in an effort to bring friends and artists of different strengths together once a month to share their art and interpretation of a chosen theme.

Judy Smith remembers her late husband’s involvement in the group, saying that themes would range from movement to food, and gatherings would take place at different members’ houses.

The group, which currently has approximately nine members, has artistic influences that range from photographers and painters to ceramic artists and printmakers. Buglio, a novice photographer at the time the group was formed, remembers the beginning of his close friendship with Smith and his introduction into the group fondly, adding that Smith was very nice in accepting his beginner’s work.

“We used to hang around together, a whole group of us,” Buglio said. “Some of us would play tennis, some would just meet for coffee, and that’s how I met him first. Then he retired and started coming down to the East Ferry Deli. We just hung around together, then we would have coffee in the morning, sometimes we would go out to take pictures together, sometimes play golf together…it was a daily thing. I would see him just about every day after he retired.”

Coinciding with his extensive artistic abilities, Smith was also the cartoonist for the Jamestown Press, producing cartoons that were mostly political in nature and depicted news and events that were occurring around town.

Smith, who passed away in November, 2009 of colon cancer that metastasized, is remembered for his love of friends and family, as well as his art.

“Art and family – that was what he was all about,” Judy Smith said. “Even though he taught art and would put in a long day at school, he would spend time in his studio almost every day, all year round. Even when we traveled, he packed his paints, he packed his sketchbooks… it was who he was.”

Smith’s family includes his two grown daughters and five grandchildren, all of whom meant the world to him.

Friday’s reception, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., is open to the public.

Viewers are welcome to appreciate Smith’s art, which will be positioned in the entryway, as well as in the meeting room on the north side of the library.

Admission is free.

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