Each month in 2021 – The Year of the Artist, a different arts category will be highlighted with an artist in that field being celebrated as the Artist of the Month.
This month the Arts Council honors Lois V. Smith, a local artist who sadly passed away last November. Her work was colorful and vibrant. There was not a subject she did not paint. She experimented in every medium you can imagine; acrylics, watercolor, pastels, mixed media, collage, bookmaking, and printmaking. Her work reflects confidence in materials and intention.
Smith grew up in Chicago and lived in various places in the Midwest, with stops in the South before settling in New Mexico. She drew in sketchbooks in high school and first used oil paints as an art major at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State in Lansing, Michigan. Later in life, she was awarded a Master of Arts degree from Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois.
Like some art majors, she opted for a switch to business to avoid the starving artist syndrome. After working in retail and raising her son, Brian, she returned to the arts. She worked in the Old Jail Museum outside of Indianapolis before becoming the Amherst County Historical Museum Director in Virginia in 1991. She retired in 1995, and for the rest of her life, she was dedicated to making art every day.
Smith mainly painted from photographs, but her work was closer to impressionism rather than realism. She was known for experimenting with every medium and substrate to include papier mache and scraped pigments. When acrylics came on the scene, she felt they had been invented for her technique. She appreciated the challenge of watercolor and pastel. Some of her most vibrant paintings, however, are on yupo paper. Because the paint or ink is not absorbed into the substrate, they remain rich, almost translucent. In an interview by Roy van der Aa she said of her process, “When I paint, I enter an almost spiritual place because of the joy of creating.” Her passion for color is evident in her work no matter the subject or the medium.
Her work was seen in juried exhibitions nationally and overseas. She was represented by several New Mexico galleries and received recognition in many publications to include The Ink, Steppin’ Out, and the Las Cruces Sun-News. She was a member of The Las Cruces Arts Association, the New Mexico Watercolor Society Southern Chapter, and the Sierra Arts Council.
She was also an avid rock collector and reader. In addition to her son, Smith also had two granddaughters. The Doña Ana Arts Council is thankful her family has shared some of her works with us.