Travel and encounters with the art and culture of other peoples is a powerful motivator for printmaker Rhonda J. Smith. The themes of her intaglio prints presented in the exhibition Travel As Talsiman involve journey, excursions that occur both within the process of creating and in the physical encounters with places and cultures. Like the layers of journey that reveal themselves over time, Smith uses a matrix created on acrylic sheets printed in layers using non-toxic inks. Her printing plates are repurposed sheets of Plexiglas originally used to protect the table tops in her studio. After years of cutting and gluing on these transparent surfaces, she was preparing to toss them out but decided to try using them to make prints. By overprinting the various plates, and creating some with specific images, she found the surfaces produced a tangle of lines suggesting maps and coordinates. For Smith, the process of travel and printmaking are similar. Despite assumptions about where a journey may lead, she is always surprised by what she eventually discovers. Travels in West Africa led Smith to consider her work as a form of talisman or amulet, which are considered by the Taureg and Bamana peoples to contain the power of knowledge attainable only through personal commitment. Art is a similar investment that requires both the maker and the viewer to seek a greater understanding in order to fully appreciate the power within the object. Each print, each collage Smith creates is a talisman, a prayer and a wish to share with the viewer.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Rhonda J. Smith is a practicing artist and professor of Art who is committed to advancing processes that explore and redefine what printmaking can be. She uses non-toxic inks and the non-traditional approach of mounting her prints on archival boards. Smith received her BFA from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky and her MFA from the University of North Texas in Denton Texas. Her work has been exhibited regionally and nationally. Recent exhibitions include The Athenaeum Gallery, Alexandria, VA; Gallery Underground, Arlington VA; BlackRock Center for the Arts, Germantown, MD; Target Gallery, Torpedo Factory Art Center, Alexandria, VA; Sarah Silberman Art Gallery, Montgomery College, Rockville, MD; The Delaplaine Visual Arts Center, Frederick MD; and Washington County Museum of Fine Art, Hagerstown, MD. She has traveled extensively in Europe, Africa, China, Peru, India and the United States. Her travels and interest in other cultures and traditions are often reflected in her work. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, she has lived in Kentucky, New Mexico, West Virginia, Virginia and now in Keedysville, Maryland. Since 1987, Smith has been a professor of Art at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where she currently serves as Chair of the Department of Contemporary Art and Theater and coordinates the BFA Non-Toxic Printmaking program.
To learn more about artist Rhonda J. Smith and her process: Watch this Video
IMAGE (above): Rhonda J. Smith, “Submerged in golden ripples of history and memory,” 5 color intaglio monotype, 30 x 44 inches.