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Emily Sullivan Smith (1980- )

Work title, date: Come Sit with Me Well Talk through the Glass; This is as Far as We can Go: Boundary Lines; Without Reverence to Humanity; Thieves among Us Mo(u)rning,;  Ill Watch You from the Window, each 2021

Materials and dimensions: hand-drawn images printed onto Mylar over inkjet prints -24 x18”, 18x 24”, xxx, 20 x 24”, 22 x 24”

Location at Summa: Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, ground floor waiting room (east wall)

About the art and the artist:

Emily Sullivan Smith, whose work has for some years dealt with sustainability and environmental issues as reflected in found materials and materials sourced from threatened species, found herself, like so many of us, profoundly affected in the first weeks of the pandemic.  The assemblage of works now in the Summa Collection, with their first-person, dialogic, and evocative titles, originated with the artist coming to grips with isolation and lockdown, as so many of us all had to, and her own resulting feelings of grief and loss.

Sullivan Smith found herself for the first time in a long time, probably (again) like many of us, with the opportunity to sit and listen, undisturbed, to the "local visitors to my yard," the birds she has hand-drawn here. Her titles remind us, sounding as they do like ideas exchanged by familiars in informal conversation, that listening seems to have brought (some of us) a sense of wider community, a sense of shared being in a world both unfamiliar and inescapable.  The robins, sparrows, and mourning doves who dropped in, captured by Sullivan Smith in characteristic pose and bearing, also brought quiet.  From which the artist describes their nature as benevolent.” The images generated by these interactions seek to express the artist's gratitude.

The resulting drawings, which were scanned in great detail so as to capture even the smallest of Sullivan Smith's marks, she printed on double-frosted mylar, which created an ethereal quality that she felt kept them from feeling too personal. These sheets had already been printed with bits of floral imagery from the artist's garden.  The mylar was then sandwiched between glass plates, which the artist saw a metaphor for the obstacles that might keep us from sharing our thoughts with one another, a theme recurrent in the titles she has composed to help us enter into the spirit of these works.

The artist describes herself as interested in sustainability from when she was a kid. She earned both B.A. and M.F.A. degree (this in printmaking) from Kent State University. Many early works, such as Submerged (2013) assembled found plastics and other materials to create striking, provocative images. During a residency at Really Big Prints in Manitowac, WI, she created the work Private Island, Great Pacific Garbage Patch Adjacent (2014), which was printed with a steam roller (!). 

Now an assistant professor and foundations coordinator in the University of Dayton's Department of Art and Design, Emily Sullivan Smith pursues interdisciplinary projects in terms of art media (sculpture, fiber, printmaking) and in terms of collaboration with other researchers there and around Ohio.  She aims to live her commitment to "both art making and art teaching as an encompassing and integrated human experience."  She is a Sustainability Scholar with the Hanley Sustainability Institute at U.D and exhibits widely throughout the U.S. and also in the U.K.

As part of her multi-pronged research effort, the artist lectures about teaching foundations courses, sustainability and artmaking, and energy issues and has published art criticism, as well as work on being a teaching artist. She is actively involved with the national organization on Foundations in Art: Theory and Education (FATE) as a presenter and panelist. Some of her art has focused on the nature and duration of the labor needed to create, involving collaboration with artists and others, such as in the EVAC Project, an invitational "Experiencing Veterans and Artists Collaboration" who worked together to explore the human understanding of work and time (Maumee, OH).

Where you can find more works by this artist:

Work by Emily Sullivan Smith can be found in the permanent collections of the Print Lending Library at the Akron Art Museum and Akron Public Library, the University of Wisconsin at Manitowoc, and the Print Archives of the Franz Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee Belgium, as well as in many private collections throughout Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.  Her website offers a comprehensive overview both retrospective and current of her art and her ideas.

Where you can find more works like this:

For other works in the Summa Collection which respond to or take as their point of departure the COVID pandemic, see recent art by Meaghan Reed, Eileen Dorsey, Lisa M. Schonberg, and Hilary Gent, as just a few.


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