Adam Parker Smith is a Brooklyn based multidisciplinary artist who constructs kinetic, animated and static paintings, sculpture, video, assemblage, and collage to form visual paradoxes and parodies. Smith received his BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz and his MFA from Tyler School of Art. His work has been shown throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia.
Blue Sky Project is a summer experience that empowers professional artists from around the world and local youth to collaborate and build community through the creation of ambitious works of contemporary art and performance. Adam Parker Smith participated in Blue Sky Project in 2007. At that time the program was stationed in McHenry County, Illinois before being relocated to Dayton, Ohio in 2009. Smith is now paying his first professional visit to Dayton as one of six returning resident artist who have come back to the program for the summer of 2012. I had the opportunity to sit down with Adam and discuss his work.
Philip Titlebaum: How did you first find out about and get involved with Blue Sky Project?
Adam Parker Smith: When I first moved to New York, I was looking for any excuse to get out of the city, so I found myself applying for as many residency programs as possible. Luckily one of the programs that I applied to was Blue Sky. I took an interview with Mequitta [Ahuja] and Peter [Benkendorf] and everything seemed to be a good fit so they asked me out for the summer and I had an incredible time.
PT: Could you discuss the work you did with Blue Sky Project in 2007?
APS: Collaborating seven high school students I created seventy heads on wooden pikes constructed from felt and pins form a landscape of imagined creatures and American icons including Mike Tyson, Anna Nicole Smith, and John F. Kennedy.
PT: Can you speak a little about your installation “This Side of Paradise (I Lost All My Money in the Great Depression and All I Got Was This Room)” and what led you to reimagine it?
APS: The original installation that I did was in a unique location up in the Bronx. The show that I was involved in that the piece was constructed for was put on by the organization, No Longer Empty. In an attempt to connect with the community and bring together different arts organizations from the Bronx, No Longer Empty had taken the Andrew Freedman Home and converted it into a large environment for collaborative and installation based art projects. The Andrew Freedman Home has an interesting history. It was opened in the late 30’s for a retirement home for formerly wealthy individuals who had lost all their money in the Great Depression. Abandoned in the 70’s, large portions of the house laid vacant until the opening of the show. My installation piece that I did at the Andrew Freedman Home related to the economical history of the community and past residents as well as the current socioeconomic status of the Bronx and also the nation as we struggle through another recession. The installation took the form of a three-dimensional wall treatment for a former bedroom at the Andrew Freeman Home that underscored the fact that the “wealth” that manifested itself there was in fact an illusion, created for the comfort of its residents. The greatly enlarged pattern emulated a traditional wallpaper motif, and was articulated with an array of plastic flowers and fruit, varnished baked goods, elegantly wrapped hard candies, jelly beans, and costume jewelry. While the materials alluded to opulence, they were purchased inexpensively at a dollar store. There was a cheery hopefulness to the arrangement that suggested both optimism in the midst of loss, and the absurdity of keeping up a good facade. Also important to the piece was the idea of the involvement and engagement of the surrounding community and the population that visited the site while my work was installed. These elements made for an easy transition to the Blue Sky Project, which at its core holds collaboration as a crucial element.
PT: How has your experience with the first manifestation of this project informed your process this time around?
APS: The initial installation was constructed primarily by myself, so upon completion I was eager to get a larger community involved in the project. Blue Sky has such a great network here in the Dayton community that this is now possible.
PT: What is your other work like?
APS: My work is a mixture of animated and static painting, sculpture, video, assemblage, and collage. I try and form visual paradoxes and parodies to make visual tableaus that are taken from my daily experiences and glorified. I try and draw moments from a range of political, personal, and fantastical scenarios to establish psychological sites for different elements to coagulate. I gather my materials from vernacular culture, hardware stores, and museums. Most of the work starts with simple pranks and tongue in check humor and then erodes to display undercurrents of dissatisfaction and dysfunction. There is humor in the work, but it is mostly related to a more academic definition of comedy with origins in the theatre of Ancient Greece where dramatic performances pit two societies against each other in an amusing conflict. The vantage point taken of this agon of comedy is a struggle between the powerless youth and societal conventions where the youth is left with little options other then to take dramatic unconventional action.
PT: What inspires you as an artist?
APS: Inspiration for me comes from many different sources, but for this installation, almost all of my inspiration comes from the young artists that I get to collaborate with. Most of the piece for this installation will be constructed by the artists that I am working with. Although the original framework is in place for the piece the creative energy will be fueled by the community and my collaborators.
Please join us this Friday, August 3 between 5 and 8 pm for the opening of Adam Parker Smith’s installation “This Side of Paradise (I Lost All My Money in the Great Depression and All I Got Was This Room)” at 8 North Main Street, Dayton, Ohio. This event is free and open to the public. It is presented as a part of Downtown Dayton’s First Friday Art Hop.