The Thread You Follow: Debra M Smith

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Resident artist Debra Smith’s show The Thread you Follow is ongoing at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia, MO until December 20. The exhibition features her work as well as the art of artist Donna Sharrett. The exhibition premiered at a member’s reception Sept 30.

In the Thread you Follow: Debra M. Smith and Donna Sharrett, the two artists partner their techniques together for an interesting dialogue. The aesthetic space between Smith’s and Sharrett’s creations returns the audience to the past. In the former, the viewer’s imagination is presented with an intangible narrative that disrupts the otherwise formal quality of the compositions with ghostly and poetic connections to the past. In the latter, the viewer is grounded through familiar fabrics and cultural arrangements of fabric.

Smith, through combinations of fabric that resemble paint from Japanese silk kimonos, suit linings, and neckties, composes abstract, rectangular assemblages that take the viewer to another place and time. Smith’s compositions are meant to stimulate the mind and imaginations of her viewers

A gallery talk for The Thread you Follow is Nov 3 at 6 pm, at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art located in State Fair Community College, 3201 W 16th St, Sedalia, MO 65301. Visit the Museum’s website at

Click here for more photos of the exhibition.

Colby K Smith’s Navah finds beauty among clutter

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colbyBy Tracy Abelin

The Pitch


The title of the show and most of the works in it is “Navah.” There’s no intervening statement posted anyplace, so I asked the Late Show’s Tom Deatherage, “What’s Navah?” He almost rolls his eyes, launching into a rote recitation about “Hebrew word, means to …” Right, I didn’t pay attention because this work doesn’t need you to know anything before you look.

Simply put, Colby K Smith’s exhibition this month at 1600 Cherry appears custom-made for this space, with its corrugated metal walls, exposed beams, lots of corners. Since it’s a bright Saturday afternoon and not a crowded first Friday, the splinters, dust and fur from the resident fluffy canine are visible. The mixed-media paintings themselves include splintered edges, but these are intentional, and all other angles are precise, each stroke meticulous. The industrial materials are cut cleanly with a respect that some artists choose not to give found objects.

So I did what I always recommend anyone do; I started looking around. Soft yellow, flat grays and a rusty red repeat between the variously sized canvases. There is also a clear blue here and there that is brighter than the sky but that evokes its transparency by the way it’s applied. Reading the hand-penciled wall cards gives a few hints that these expanses — with their repeating lines created by boards, a soft and light-purple foamcore, and paint, are landscapes.

There is “Navah (Chase County View),” a rather minimal expression of a place, with a meshed top section underscored by a double line of blue, a large middle field that is blank and white, and a suggestion of a very low mountain range plotted in a few smears of white putty or paint. The foreground employs no two-point perspective; the viewer fills in that illusion deliberately.

The larger of the two works called “Navah Cityscape” has the addition of “red sky” to distinguish it from the other. The thin red lines that were allowed to bleed softly into the white field wrap around the sides of the canvas, a detail I always relish. All visible surfaces are acknowledged, and there is less sense that “this is a painting” with artificial boundaries looking to be covered over by a future framing exercise.

These lines extend across the front (an approximate maximum distance of 3 feet) in descending horizontal lengths from a set of “towers” that themselves generally descend from right to left, starting by touching the top two-thirds of the field and ending a few inches from the lower edge of the canvas.

These towers are made of strips of boards of uniform thickness, in varying widths and painted in the typical industrial gray paint found covering the attic floors of old wooden houses. Bits of natural-wood and stained-wood sections punctuate the skyline structure, and with time and some imagination, the red lines can be approximated to stylized telephone wires, geometrically perfected sunset streaks or simply an illusion of receding horizon.

Up close there are scratches, blisters and nails that act as punctuation and additional reminders of the materials’ origins, previous uses and character.

The other “Navah Cityscape” is a much smaller, vertical grouping of rounded baseboard trim “buildings,” with what appears to be original paint worn off in patterns from time. These rest on a two-layer foundation of other salvaged boards, complete with old staples and set over a two-dimensional ground that, again, with vision, extends into the foreground while maintaining right angles and proportions of abstraction.

Deatherage and I don’t talk about the work anymore, just that he and Smith have had a long association and he was happy that the KCUR arts program had recently featured them and this exhibition. He’s running around adding more handwritten wall tags to the works in the back section of the gallery, because a group of about 100 people (who are members of the Nelson-Atkins’ Society of Fellows) are stopping by soon as part of a Kansas City gallery tour.

Travis Pratt, who will be showing here the month of December, asks me what I think of the show, and I say I don’t know how to talk about it but that I find it beautiful.

Pratt reminds me that Smith makes a living through buying and selling everything under the sun, and that this work employs both that process and those materials. I remember that time when Smith and I worked in the same office and he was running himself ragged dealing with the contents of a few railroad cars. He takes delight in finding rare and significant objects and collections and matching them with people who find them most valuable. And anyone who has been in his studio is familiar with the piles of every other thing under the sun that are waiting for a perfect buyer or to be used in his art. The aesthetic is familiar to anyone who’s ever visited the City Museum in St. Louis (created by the late Bob Cassilly).

“Navah 7” is framed under glass, as are a few postcard-size works, and while they are more delicate than most of the other works exposed to the air, the separation is slightly off-putting, even though the composition and handling of materials remains as skillful and inviting. “Navah 7” is mostly a light wash of yellow, topped by the mesh motif found elsewhere, tiny white circles on blue, and repeated in a green grid below, as part of a scalene triangle that rests on a soft blue shape that juts into what other works have taught us to regard as buildings but here are scant and can be appreciated as forms and colors alone.

When the tour group arrives, they’ve come from Studios Inc., where Smith is director, and they make the connection a few minutes after completely filling the space that the artist who is about to address them is the same person who just introduced the residency program a few blocks away. And he tells everyone that he is in the salvage business and that the show’s title and purpose is “to bring home and make beautiful.” Out of the thousands of items that come across his purview, in this case, for this show, it took going over the characteristics of at least 350 boards to select the ones he wanted to use in the works here, he says.

That’s all the statement there is, and ultimately, it’s summed up by his saying he just wants to create things that are beautiful.

Read more here:

Join us tonight for open studios and exhibition by Tanya Hartman

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img_0568Reception  and open studios tonight!!!  6:00 – 9:00 PM.

Come join us tonight for  When A Stranger Sojourns In Your Land, an exhibition featuring resident artist Tanya Hartman.

Open studios: Patty Carroll, Brett Reif, and Gerry Trilling

AND cold crafted brew on tap @  Torn Label, so come see the show and visit the open studios tonight!


Studios Inc Exhibtion

1708 Campbell

Kansas City, MO 64108


6 – 9 PM

First Friday: Navah by Colby K Smith

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navshserriesreedline8.31.16The Late Show gallery is pleased to announce Navah an exhibition featuring Colby K Smith, on view from 9.02.16-10.01.16 with an opening reception Friday, 9.02.16 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM.

As Smith, a resident artist of Studios Inc, describes the process and inspiration for his work, his focus revolves around ideas of gesture, order, the unexpectedly beautiful, and communicating the intangible. His radio talk will be on KCUR 89.3fm this Friday 9/2 at 5:45 AM, 7:45 AM, and 9:45 AM.

Navah is about painting, yet it includes a range of materials that extend beyond the traditional paint medium to include plaster and industrial materials. I love the process that exists through the manipulation of their endless combinations. Through this process, I establish marks that (more…)

Apply for 2017 Studio Residency!!!!

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art studios, free space, residency, gallery, crossroads art.Studios Inc is pleased to announce that studio(s) will become available in the beginning of 2017.

Studios Inc provides a three-year residency to competitively selected mid-career artists intent on moving to the next level of success.  Expansive private studio space provides room to expand the scale of works.  A patron underwrites each artist’s studio. This builds mutually meaningful relationships between local artists and new or seasoned collectors. The Studios’ programs supports the relationships between artists and collectors which are essential for a thriving visual arts community.  The Studios nurtures symbiosis at a micro level with a focus on a selected group of artists and the patrons who support them.  Combined, Studios Inc is a vital part of the unprecedented visual arts community here in Kansas City.

A selection panel consisting of a variety of individuals from the Kansas City area is assembled and convenes; it is this selection panel that determines which applicant(s) will be awarded studio spaces in 2017.  Applications are currently being solicited at; materials must be received no later than 9/14/2016 at 3PM.

Residencies are open to all visual artists. The Studios Inc does not discriminate on the basis of age, ethnicity, gender, economic or social standing, political or religious beliefs, marital status, or sexual orientation.


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Etch A SketchWIN a private tour of the Studios Inc for you and 4 guests!!!

Studios Inc is calling all Etch A Sketch artists to our booth (#20) at ArtsKC‘s block party today starting at 4PM! Along with ourselves there will be roughly 40 other booths from the greater KC area! We are going to have two Etch A Sketches at our booth which is where YOU come in! Here’s what you will need to do (more…)

Join Us: tomorrow night NCECA!!!

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DSC_0009Studios Inc Exhibition Space is pleased host the following NCECA exhibition with an opening reception Friday, Mar 18, 5-9:30pm

Materiality, Methodology, Metamorphosis featuring artists Julia Haft-Candell, Del Harrow, Andrew Casto, Roberta Massuch, Virginia Rose Torrence, Amanda Salov, Jinsoo Song, David Katz, and Darien Arikoski-Johnson on view from 03.15.16 to 03.19.16.

Ghosts + Stooges featuring artists Ben Ahlvers, Joe Bova, Mark Burns, Andrea Keyes Connell, Monica Van den Dool, Arthur Gonzalez, Claire Hedden, Matt Nolen, Michaelene Walsh, Patti Warashina and others on view from 03.15.16 to 03.19.16.

Standing Wave featuring artists (more…)

Grand Opening: Friday 3.11.16 from 5 to 9 pm

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whiteonredsquare3The Studios Inc is excited to announce its newest program and exhibition space, The Grand Opening will be Friday, March 11th from 5 to 9 pm at Studios Inc, 1708 Campbell, Kansas City MO 64108. It will be an incredible event showcasing an array of the best makers in KC including premier artists, beer, music and food!!!

Each year that an artist is in residence, they donate a piece of their artwork to the Studios Inc Collection. This growing collection of work from Kansas City’s most prominent artists has inspired Studios Inc to create will exhibit this impressive and diverse collection of artworks by (more…)

Artists featured at UMKC: Body-Mind Entente

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BodyMIND_Postcard_FrontResident artist Miles Neidinger, Studios Inc office manager Emily Connell , and former resident artist Diana Heise included in the upcoming exhibition Body-Mind Entente at UMKC Gallery of Art .

Thursday, January 21 – Friday, February 26, 2016
Opening Reception: Thursday January 21, 2016, 5—7PM
Free Parking in the Cherry St. garage, levels 5 & 6

BodyMind Entente features multimedia artworks that explore the relationship between body and mind, perception and cognition, consciousness and spirituality. It looks into the biological and cultural factors that shape our existence, enabling us to develop singular identities while simultaneously sharing many features and modes of behavior with others. This exhibition opens a dialogue between (more…)