Samantha Keely Smith’s Mystical Spaces

Frothy clouds and hazy distances make for simple scenes of awe in Samantha Keely Smith’s paintings. They’re landscapes taken to a new level – sparkling, glowing and fading – shining enigmas that show more of what we all hope heaven looks like than anything we could ever dream of seeing on this earth. The gods and elements interact without people to mess things up – water, nature and light converging into one scene of wonder.

Land combines with water in “Shift” – a wave of cloud crests in the sunlight above blue sand dunes and before misty air that shines in warm effervescence. Below the breaking wave you can see into the distant blue, to what looks like a glowing forest with clouds instead of leaves. Between two of the center trees shines a white spot of light, like a patronus spell being cast in the distance, or the center seed from which all this beauty has sprung.


Shift oil, enamel, shellac on canvas 60" x 72 " 2012

oil, enamel, shellac on canvas
60″ x 72 “


The waves get speckled orange in “Progeny” – light clouds of paint breaking and bursting in the foreground before a shimmering blue-green haze. “Mutiny” substantiates the water more, almost letting it fill up the canvas and submerging us below its depths, but not without a look into the distance at the land that might be there. Again with a breaking wave as the focus, this one glows bright white, splashing up with spots of pink and shades of orange. “Gathering” shows the calmer scene of a watery mountainside that leads off into the light.


Progeny oil, enamel, and shellac on canvas 48" x 78" 2013

oil, enamel, and shellac on canvas
48″ x 78″


Samantha Keely Smith was born in England but moved to the US as a child, and now lives and works in New York. Her work has been shown all over New York City and in Arkansas as well. In 2011, her solo exhibition on Madison Avenue was featured as an Editor’s Pick on ArtInfo, who wrote that her works, “play at the edge of abstraction, blurring between light-filled fields and non-objective compositions.”

Samantha’s artist statement reads:

“Smith’s artwork represents a striving to reconcile the inner world of instinct and the tidal sweep of our emotional life, with an external world that is both beautiful and hostile in its natural grandeur. She attempts to map the place where these worlds intersect.

The translucent layers of paint, contrasting soft ethereal brushwork and harder edged sweeping gestures, echo this divergence and depict a timeless place that hovers between dream and reality in a way that is simultaneously alluring and menacing. The work exhibits the struggle between and among the variety of human impulses: impulses that are as necessary as they are contradictory, and which therefore constantly undermine our psychic and social coherence even as they endow us with vitality, soul, and life. “


Mutiny oil, enamel, shellac on canvas 60" x 78 " 2012

oil, enamel, shellac on canvas
60″ x 78 “

Progeny oil, enamel, and shellac on canvas 48" x 78" 2013

oil, enamel, and shellac on canvas
50″ x 72″


For more of Samantha Keely Smith’s work check out her website and her Tumblr.



Shari Rubeck: Painting Significance with Whimsy

Contemporary artist Shari Rubeck uses watercolor and acrylics to create simple scenes filled with glamour, curiosity and chaos. Each brightly colored artwork beautifully explores the human psyche, with a suggested meaning that’s left open to interpretation . Her style is multi-faceted, each series develops its own sort of visual voice that usually involves some kind of animal imagery along with a sense of raw purity, the paint allowed to run and swirl organically in confined areas of the composition.

“Lion Girl” is a watercolor and graphite work that shows a woman standing defiantly, hands on her hips as her serene face is overlaid with that of a powerful lion roaring, the color of his mane melting into her fiery tethered dress. A girl in a blue dress leans impossibly far to the right in “Sharp Intrusion,” her head hidden by a glowing red space helmet with five birds flying towards it, as if they were working as a team to knock her over.



What’s the first thing you can remember painting?

The inside of my parent’s station wagon with crayons is one of my earliest artistic memories.  But my first memory of painting would have to be when I received a good quality set of brushes and went to town filling large pieces of watercolor paper with all varieties of brushstrokes until I could think of no more.


What do you think watercolor adds to the creation of a piece?

Watercolors are fresh, light and have an immediate quality.  I am working to bring that sense of luminescence to some of my larger acrylic paintings on linen.


What do you like about including animals in your work? Particularly bunnies?

Animals are a big part of my life and psyche.  They are present often in my thoughts, dreams and work.  They are my connection to the subtle workings of the world.  They are magical, intuitive, and fierce, connected and make wonderful story tellers. As a human race we have turned our backs on them.  Should technology suddenly drop off we would look to them for knowledge, guidance and find ourselves thanking them once again for sustenance.

The Bunnies arrived on the ‘scene’ soon after I began ‘working’ a puppet, named ‘Bunny’ for my son in his struggle to find comfort of sleep at bedtime. Bunny has a tremendously silly, but slightly cynical sense of humor and became my artistic story teller.  The bunnies illustrate humor in the serious and not so serious sides of life’s events and emotions.


Who are the people your works represent?

The figures in my work represent all of us – humans and humanness.  Some pieces are more representative of my own self and direct experiences, while others are observations from distant perspectives.


What do empty backgrounds allow for in your work and how do you choose a background for each character?

GE DIGITAL CAMERAI fluctuate between giving color & detail to the areas surrounding my characters and leaving them alone in their space.  An intense drive to express an idea, message or observation leaves me feeling that the figures can communicate strongly without anything around them.  The blank or negative space is carefully considered and tells much about the tensions while simultaneously allowing for areas of visual repose.


What do you like about the image of a figure with a mismatched head?

A figure with mismatched head…isn’t that what we all are?  Or I could elaborate and say that we are all different degrees of mask wearers.  My Ego series transformed into the Alter Egos.  The first Alter Ego shows a human wearing a bunni mask or a bunni wearing a human – there is some ambiguity.  I have always been intrigued by masks and what they can represent.  There is so much that goes on ‘backstage’.  I do also love the weight of a head that is too large for its body; whether mechanical or creature.


What are some of the art websites or blogs you follow? 

Some sites that I am affiliated with or keep up with are: BlueCanvas, Twitter, ARTCZAR, Elisa Contemporary, Artsrogueisland, GalleryZ, ColoColo, Hallway Gallery, and now of course ThingsWorthDescribing.  I find many intriguing sites on random searches but may only visit them once.


Minor Situations is her newest series of bunny paintings that’s by far the most adorable – fluffy floppy characters shown after a small disappointment like burning toast, letting balloons go, or spilling milk. Their little bunny faces look so downtrodden, and their long ears allow for an exaggerated sense of unhappiness as they fall down the back of every bunny. Simple scenes against bright-colored backgrounds, these works are lovable in a silly sad way.






For more of Shari’s work, head to her website Art in Mind.