Today we feature the A Smith Gallery located in Johnson City Texas. A gallery and gathering space that is familiar to many of the photographers that have been on Rfotofolio. We thought it would be good to get to know a little more about the A Smith Gallery and the people behind the space.
Would you please tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Amanda: I’m still a practicing CPA. Photography is something that has been a part of me, much of it unconsciously, all of my life. My Father, an Insurance Agent, was naturally gifted with a camera. I have the letter he wrote to Santa Claus in 1919 when he was 10 years old. The first present he asked for was a “Kodak”. I look at many of his snapshots now and am amazed by his sense of composition, point of view and understanding of lighting. I hope I have inherited a few of his gifts. I became serious about photography in 1994; attending workshops, networking with other photographers and working in the darkroom. Once I discovered pinhole cameras I was flying.
Kevin: My educational experience was a bit chaotic. I studied Landscape Architecture, Architecture, English and Art. Attention Deficit Disorder runs in my family. I started my career as a landscape designer and contractor and, as a result of being self-employed and needing to keep employees busy, have done everything from forming for concrete foundations to furniture building. I have also bought groceries over the years with monies from fine art painting, graphic design, and building design. I was always fascinated with photography. When I was about ten I created a series of murder scene Polaroid images with my little sister and a bottle of ketchup. At twelve I was photographing in the pool with a Kodak 110 cartridge camera in a seal-a-meal bag. When I was studying art one of my favorite projects was a series of drawings I did from a group of small photographs, popular in the 1940’s, of a man in an ill-fitting suit. In my early twenties my roommate and I set up a darkroom in the kitchen. I moved to Johnson City twenty years ago after attempting to be an expatriate artist in Mexico – staying in Johnson City has turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
What was the spark to start A Smith Gallery?
Amanda: I moved from Austin to Johnson City in 2000. Carol Watson opened her gallery in Johnson City, I believe, in 2007 or 2008. It was a wonderful photography venue and I participated in her exhibitions. When Carol decided to close the gallery and move to Mexico I jumped at the chance to take over what she had started. It has been eight years now. It was the best life decision I’ve ever made. The world of art, compatriots, friends and the constant surprise it opened up for me has been both life changing and life affirming. The photography community, worldwide, is always generous, kind and so incredibly supportive of what we do.
As well as being a gallery owner, are you an artist?
Amanda: I have never really considered myself one. I don’t know why – I guess because I’m a CPA. Kevin says I am.
Kevin: Yes, she is. My right brain is predominant.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
Amanda: The photography of Keith Carter, Raymond Meeks, Elliott Erwitt and Michael Kenna have probably had the most significant influence on me as a photographer. Nine Francois, a wonderful Austin based educator and photographer, also had a tremendous influence on me as a journeyman photographer. Her creativity with the medium and her ability to engage and inspire was priceless to my growth as a photographer.
Kevin: John Steinbeck, Robert Rauschenberg , Richard Brautigan, Man Ray, Thomas Wolfe, Rufino Tamayo, Edward Hopper, Carl Sandburg, Cy Twombly, Annie Dillard, William Carlos Williams, Kurt Vonnegut, Joaquín Torres-García, Jean Michel Basquiat, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The three most significant influences on me psychically moving through the acts of creation were; my best friend growing up, Tom Clancy, who was and is wildly creative and infinitely curious; my, now deceased friend, painter and poet, Will Secrest; and a wild creative writing professor I had in college that was terminated because he was too wild and too good.
What would you like to share with the viewing public about the gallery and the exhibitions you have?
Amanda: We have ongoing and rotating calls for entry in our two exhibition spaces. In our main gallery space we have rotating exhibitions of calls for entry based on a one word theme. We exhibit alternative and conceptual photography based work in the Salon. We have been incredibly blessed with very accomplished and peer respected jurors over the years. We have great gallery talks. We have fun – you will hear quite a lot of laughter in the gallery.
Kevin: A Smith Gallery sits in the very small hometown of President Lyndon Johnson. Johnson City has less than two thousand residents and is in the middle of the Texas hill country. We are rapidly becoming an art destination with eight galleries in town now. The wonderful thing about our location is that JC has maintained its quirky small town feel yet has a population of over three and a half million people within a sixty to seventy mile radius. It is surprising and shocking to many when they come into the gallery and see the quality and range of images from all over the country and around the world. Amanda makes fabulous brownies for our receptions. They pair very nicely with chilled Prosecco.
What do you enjoy most about having a gallery?
Amanda: It’s all about community. It humbles and amazes me every time a photographer from Germany or Los Angeles or Wisconsin walks through the door at a reception to stand by their image and commune with our wonderful, supportive group of local artists. Also, it is so gratifying to see the work of a young, beginning photographer next to an established photographer’s image and get to witness the creative and personal boost they get from it. We are very lucky.
Kevin: I think Amanda described it for me.
What do dislike most about having a gallery?
Amanda: I wouldn’t use the word dislike, but there is a tremendous amount of administrative work to running a gallery. I don’t like negativity – art is supposed to be fun.
Kevin: I dislike that in what we do there are “Winners” and the rest. Yet, I know from my educational, and life, experience — critique and introspection are invaluable. My greatest hope is that the folks that enter our calls for entry are taking away something of value.
What makes a good day for you?
Amanda: It’s 3:45 on the last Saturday of each month, the brownies are on the table, the Prosecco is chilling, Kevin is dressed and I’m standing amidst something I never could have, in my wildest dreams, imagined as a younger person.
Kevin: Yeah, I think Amanda explained it. Oh, and working in our studio with a bunch of great folks playing with bees wax and paint. Not sure about the me being dressed part.
What hangs on your wall at home?
Amanda: Well, we live in the back of the gallery, so, we are surrounded by amazing and changing art three hundred and sixty-five days a year!
Kevin: It is fantastic to get up in the morning, with a cup of coffee, and walk through the gallery in my pajamas – not many folks get to do that.
What’s on the horizon?
Amanda: We have some very compelling exhibitions planned. Adding the Salon space has been a very creatively energizing thing for the gallery. We are going to push the envelope a little more in there – our motto is “We encourage creativity.” We are also in the process of setting up a platform whereby we can represent the work of individual artists. If our present plans stay on track we will be moving out of the back of the gallery soon, which will give us more room and a better space for workshops – stay tuned.
Kevin: The coming year has a lot yet to be revealed. Franklin Cincinnatus is excited.
Thank you Amanda and Kevin.
To learn more about the A Smith Gallery please visit their site at A Smith Gallery.