Eloise's Artwork

Picture of Eloise

A Lifetime of Work

"I say, from the start it was there; the vitality, the deliberateness, the surety. And throughout the years, with each visual shift of mode or direction she continually held fire. You must see for yourself." Chester Hentzel

Early this past summer, Page Smith asked if I would serve on a committee to seek exhibition space for an Eloise Pickard Smith retrospective. (At this stage, Eloise was not to know.) The committee would meet to jointly select works for the exhibition and a target date for January 1995 was set.

Although time was short and several sought-for spaces had been scheduled, the committee acquired six sites to exhibit fifty five years of work. The response whole-heartedly was, "It's about time."

To many of us who have known Eloise over the years, her dedication to civic activities pertaining to art and her devotion to family have often overtaken, in our minds, her work in the studio. When the committee met (in her absence) at her studio, we found we were witness to a major body of work.

Eloise's studio is a modest wooden building with skylight, easel, working tables, storage shelving, a large etching press, and all the tools and materials of her profession. The space was packed with work which had been chronologically arranged and gathered in portfolios by Page and daughter, Anne. We, the committee, were to sort through and to experience the scope of her production.

We looked at works in pencil, watercolor, oil, collage, monoprint, assemblage, and mixed media with subject matter ranging from representational to abstract. Like many contemporary artists, Eloise has chosen to explore various options, directions and materials in order to discover, to enjoy and to teach.

To review the work of a strong and practiced artist's lifetime in the privacy of their working space is an experience both awesome and reassuring; awesome by dint of the strength, development and quality of the work done, and reassuring by dint of the simplicity of the materials and tools used. The miracle is in the making.

What is readily apparent is a love for pattern and materiality. She is masterful at pattern; pattern as flat-spaced syncopation and pattern as an all-over spatial construct. In general, throughout her work, there is a strong dark-light pattern, an intuitive structure rising from the core of relationships which supports the resonance and sensation of light and color, and is sustained judiciously, regardless of whether the space has been determined flat or full. Through 'pattern', she controls the breath of space.

Throughout the work, and deeply consistent, also is the pitch and felt-force in the handling of the materials. The matter of the material, that which is earthy and touchable, textures the making of the work. Without show, her work is contoured by a raw kind of elegance dressed in playful discernment. From work that arrives spontaneously to that which is keenly constrained, we read freedom of control and clarity of intent. We see a roaming creativity exhibiting an inherent consciousness to the internal construct particular to each piece. Though influences abound, she has absorbed these influences into the visceral vocabulary of her work. A universality and yet, a simultaneity, with a particularity of spirit is unique unto the maker. She has acquired a broad visual knowledge based of a living response to a rightness of form which cannot be formulated. She will not be caught in clichˇ or manner in the style of.

Here is an individual who has a strong sense of identity with living and has found in art the power to move and to embellish.

A few years back, I happened on an exhibition of children's drawings and paintings which had sprung from an Eloise Pickard Smith workshop. Each child's work projected an individual and natural inventiveness and power to form. One did not sense that a teacher's hand or voice had interrupted the innate process of doing. An air of affirmation and confirmation had to have been set. I saw that in insightful teacher can guide the inborn sensibilities regarding the making of things. Such has been the example of Eloise's life. You must see for yourself.

Donald Weygandt
Santa Cruz, California

Lynn Harbor 1
Watercolor 1950
Thumbnail of Lynn Harbor
Fredericka's Chair
Fredericka's Chair
casein 1957
Persian Bowl
oil 1965
Thumbnail of Dining Room
Dining Room
oil 1973
Candrian's Map
collage 1985
Thumbnail of Candrian's Map
Thumbnail of Blue 1 Collage 1987
Blue 1
Collage 1994
Owen's Collage
Collage 1987
Thumbnail of Owen's Collage 1987