Small is Big!

LIHU‘E — Jack Smith has been creating art for just three years, and the Small Works 2006 show by the Kaua‘i Society of Artists was his first attempt at exhibiting.

“I was here at an earlier ‘walk-and-talk’ event, so I figured I’d enter some pieces just to get the critiques,” Smith said during one of his show-sitting shifts (“Try saying that three times real fast,” he laughs).

He has two pieces in the show, a portrait of his daughter at age 2 and another of a best friend, with the work of his daughter, “Grace with Glasses,” garnering an honorable mention award in the show hanging now through March 3.

“This is amazing,” Smith said. “About the time I was getting this award, my oldest son, who is in Idaho, was getting a state award for an essay on Sun Valley.” Smith’s winning entry, “Grace with Glasses,” was done when his daughter was 2 years old. “Now, she’s going to be six.” The portrait represents Smith’s time spent in the art realm, as he said he used to be a woodworker before getting into art. He said he’s been doing art about three years now, starting “in 2003, just before my birthday.” “I never knew talent was spelled ‘W-O-R-K,’” he chuckles, as he cites that the “Grace with Glasses” piece took him about an accumulated 30 hours.

“It’s not about the final product,” Smith points out, “but it’s about the process of getting there.” Smith said the artwork is a slice of time frozen, as he points out that “Grace with Glasses” took not 30 hours consecutively, but an hour here, an hour there, and collectively resulted in the piece.

These slices of time make up his completed piece (which is also a slice of time when Grace was 2).

“I was scrambling the night before the deadline,” he jokes. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.” Smith said his work in art is inspired by an author in pastels who said that every piece is part of a journey. It is about the development of the artist.

“There’s one culture who doesn’t have a separate word for art,” Smith said, his gaze indicating his desire to find that culture that, he says, “it’s about not following the herd.” Smith, who holds a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and conservation, said during the 21 years he’s been on Kaua‘i, he’s had 20 jobs.

He amassed a collection of Kodachromes, and had envisioned himself as a nature photographer at one point, but after Hurricane ‘Iniki wet his slides and prints, he sold all of his equipment to owners of a photo store in Hanalei and started working with wood.

“I love natural history,” Smith said. He works twice a week driving the carriages at the Kilohana estate for owners of Plantation Carriages, and on one trip, was overheard telling his passengers about the unique properties of the Mickey Mouse plant that grows alongside the main plantation house.

“It has yellow flowers, bright-green leaves, and the seed pods are bright red,” his spiel went. “Bonsai people love the plant.” “I’ve been enrolled in the school of hard knocks,” Smith said. “But I’ve been very blessed to live here. I like to think of myself as a country boy, kind of a hermit, and now, I can ride my bike to work, to shop, and I’m still out in the country (Puhi).

“Last year it (the show’s maximum size for artwork admission) was four inches. This year, it’s 12 inches,” Smith noted. “It’s getting bigger.” Small Works 2006 is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays. The show runs through March 3 at Kukui Grove Center, in an exhibition area sandwiched between Kauai Bakery & Cinnamon and the Kauai Product Store.

Juror for the exhibit was Shigeru Miyamoto, a former Kaua‘i resident and ceramics professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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