Jean and Wally Smith’s Smith Galleries, down in Wexford, is a fine art, fine American crafts gallery unmatched in this area for its extensive collections, extraordinary diversity of the work, and the quality of the pieces of the more than 300 artists they represent.
The spacious and attractive area of 3,600 square feet, high above a series of shops on the second level at Wexford, had a number of iterations before the Smiths arrived. They moved into the Wexford location in 1988.
“The gallery location ... matched our interests in creating and selling fine art and fine crafts,” said Jean Smith. “Wally, you remember, was a potter and I was a weaver. Can you imagine, we actually started our arts and gallery career in a tiny shop in Gatlinburg, Tenn., which we called The Potter’s Mark, in 1972. ”
“We’re about to celebrate 30 years down here at Wexford,” said Wally Smith. “ We’ve been directing the activity at our gallery every day for all of those years and ... we look forward to doing just that every day.”
Jean Smith brought in a tall stack of recently arrived etchings by Carol Lummus, the newest member of the Smith Gallery art associates. I was amazed at the intricacies in her work and in the variety of her focus — some philosophical; some whimsical; some very, very funny; many extraordinarily sardonic.
The etchings are numbered, and the print numbers are kept low, to guarantee the extended value of the collected pieces.
We laughed at “Only Toucan,” at 5 by 2.5 inches, which is delightful and at the smallish end of her work. “Whenever I Paint, I Dip My Brush Into My Soul” is 8 by 8 inches, while “Noveau is Better Than No Riche at All,” is 13.5 by 11 inches. “Tanto Vale Che Vivesse,” which is offered in the round and mounted is 10 by 16 inches. Be certain to read her “marginal notes.” They will add to your appreciation of her great humor.
All are printed on Rives B. F. 100 percent cotton rag archival paper, matted and covered in a plastic sleeve to protect the details.
If you ask Lummus about her thoughts and her work, she says “it is there — in the prints.”
The 79-year-old artist, who spent most of her years on Cape Cod, has produced well over 300 editions since 1974, when she purchased her first etching press. Not much has changed in her printing process — she dips copper plate into a Dutch Mordant bath, to provide the field she needs to create the elements of her complex images. She has, to some of her etchings, added color, achieving a result called intaglio prints.
A second generation Cape Codder, and a 12th generation New Hampshirite, Lummus, who lives with her husband, Bert, is a graduate of the Walnut Hill School of the Performing Arts, and Colby Sawyer College. She attended the Massachusetts College of Art, and the University Of Geneva.
While you visit the Smith Gallery, spend some time just moving through the gallery. Take in the two dimensional work, fine jewelry, clay, wood, metal, fiber and glass, oh, and the toys. There are dolls, blocks and kaleidoscopes to warm your heart. Of particular note is the contemporary jewelry of Joan Horn; the gorgeous colors in the art glass of Ed Branson, done in arrangements that allowed for groupings and wall ensembles; Linda Kirsten Cole’s Lowcountry landscapes in acrylic on canvas; and the original, giclee and serigraphs of Mike Smith, the highly collectible artist who has more than 25 years with the Smith’s.
Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at email@example.com.
If you go
What: Smith Galleries Jewelry, Fine Craft, Fine Arts, Framing and Toys
Where: The Village at Wexford, J-11, Upstairs, 1000 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head
Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday
For more information: Call 843-842-2280 or email www.smithgalleries.com
Etching is the art of producing pictures or designs by printing from an etched metal plate, usually copper, zinc or steel. In traditional pure etching, the metal plate is covered with a waxy ground like beeswax, resin and asphaltum, which is resistant to acid. The artist then scratches off the ground with a pointed etching needle where he or she wants a line to appear in the finished image, so exposing the bare metal.
Intaglio printing is the family of printing and printmaking techniques in which the image is incised into a surface, and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink. It is the direct opposite of relief print. The design is cut, scratched or etched into the printing surface or plate, which can be copper, zinc, aluminum magnesium, plastics or even coated paper.
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by print, a graphic art, which has been conceived by the artist to be realized as an original work of art, rather than a copy of a work in another medium. Normally on paper, prints are produced by drawing or carving an image onto a hard surface — a matrix, such as wood block, metal plate or stone. The surface of the plate is wiped with a Tarleton, a starched cheesecloth or muslin material. Finally, the plate and moistened paper are pulled through an etching press, which, by great pressure, transfers the ink from the plate to the paper. Printmaking covers only the process of creating prints that have an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting.