Dennis Smith is as much a philosopher as he is an artist. His work is a window into who he is and his views on life. His impressionistic style captures his exuberance for life and embodies his passion for transcendence – expressed through the spontaneity of children, reflections of the past and hopes for the future.
At the core of Dennis’ work is the spirit of the human soul. We often see this represented through the innocence of childhood. To Dennis, the child is a metaphor for life. Children’s lives, as they explore the world around them, parallel our lives as adults as we discover our identity in this universe. Each piece by Dennis Smith captures this spirit, still vibrant and alive, frozen in the moment of discovery.
The decision to be an artist came at relatively a very young age. His first major obsession was Rock Collecting, followed shortly thereafter with cartooning. Rock collecting lasted a summer, and the Cartooning lasted through Junior High and most of High school.
One of the most difficult days of Dennis’ life came two years later, when he left home to become a Mormon missionary in Denmark. One of the very positive aspects of Dennis’s time in Denmark was that it permitted him to broaden his awareness of art. The artwork Dennis saw in Denmark had a profound influence on his work. He was exposed to the figurative tradition of some of the Masters of Europe of the day, and of the past, which exposure and tradition he might not have received in the States.
Smith returned home in the Spring of 1964 with a depth of experience much greater than if he had stayed home. Along with the classes he took in the Fall Semester that year, was an evening class taught by Franz Johanson. It was beginning sculpture. The first night of the class they began working on a portrait bust of a young woman with her hair tied in a bun. Smith remembers coming home that night and excitedly telling Veloy, his wife, that he knew where he wanted to go with his art. And from that night forward, his course was set as a sculptor.
In 1967 after graduating in fine art, and in completing one year of graduate work at Brigham Young, Smith had a strong desire to return to Denmark. He naively applied for admission at the Danish Royal Academy in Copenhagen, and to his surprise, was accepted. He attended school in Copenhagen for a little over a year, before returning home.
In 1976 came the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ Women’s Monument in Nauvoo Illinois. At the time, the monument was the largest commission of sculpture anywhere in the world for that year, and it could also have been the largest monument ever constructed to women. Dennis Smith was the designer of the project and sculptor of eleven of the thirteen statues.
Early in the 1980’s Dennis received a major commission from American Savings of 9 Life-size pieces. And his work of Families and Children became known and shown on the street corners in downtown Salt Lake City and throughout Utah.
In the late 1980’s – Human Affairs took a priority in his concern and perspective, especially US and Soviet relations. Dennis went to Russia and has gone back 6 times in an effort to understand and to improve our relationships with these, our neighbors. He continued to work and in the early 1990’s he sculpted the “Peace Cradle”, modeled after the child’s game of the Cat’s Cradle. Originals were placed in Cherniv Russia and in her sister city Salt Lake City , Utah, where the statue has a permanent home in the Peace Gardens.
Dennis has always been Progressive – keeping up with the current trends, fascinated with Form and Structure, he has created numerous Collages and Assemblages. His most recognizable Assemblages are his Air Ships. These marvelous flying machines – abstract but machine like, whimsical and approachable, represent the imaginings of children. His Air Ships have always represented an abstract passion of the transcendence of the soul. Hope is a major feature in all his work.
Dennis Smith, at times, expands his artistic expression with his own poetry. The public get a treat when his poems and his art works are published or displayed together. With his poetry he expresses this alliance when he says, “I approach sculpture as a spatial response to personal experience-in a poetic sense,” Smith believes as an artist he must explore his own feelings and develop his internal resources. The personal understanding he gains then allows him to understand the outside world.
Smith, while known for sculpture, is definitely not limited to or restricted to three-dimensional art forms. His paintings are rich with symbolism and metaphors. He has an ability to describe his subject with vivid comparisons to the shapes and colors he chooses.