This seems to be the week for recommendations, because today’s helping was sent to me via a New York Times Magazine article. Jean Smith, artist, musician, writer, and filmmaker, has been selling portraits she has painted through Facebook since 2016. Each painting is sold for $100 USD, and all money that is made above her $1,000 USD/month living expenses goes towards opening a Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change in western Canada. Her portraits are mostly based off of photographs, almost all of them depict women, and they all focus more on the emotions of the subjects rather than their looks. There is also a distinct sense that in the dynamic between the portrait and the viewer, it is us who are being looked at and scrutinized. It is a refreshing change from the way female subjects of paintings are often meant to be solely gazed upon.
Jean Smith is based in my hometown, and I’m ashamed to say I never knew about her work until now. But after reading through her website, I love what she is both doing with and saying about art. She could easily raise the price of her portraits, but so far she has declined to do so. Which is incredible. Art should be accessible to everyone, including those with limited means. I have no way of knowing this, but I’d like to imagine that many of the people who buy her paintings don’t see themselves as art collectors or connoisseurs. They’re just people who saw something they liked, and at $100 a pop, they could afford to put some art on their walls. And not just a print. An original painting from a talented artist.
I don’t know if the pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench in her plans to open the artist residency, but I hope that it is still in the works. Art can be a powerful tool for social change, no matter what the medium or genre. And having a place for artists to gather and create those works that could potentially change the world for the better sounds like a dream. A dream that I hope is realized soon.
If you want to learn more about Jean Smith and her work, her website is here. And if you want to follow her paintings for sale on Facebook, you can find them here. I’m already following her page, so hopefully I will have my very own Jean Smith original soon. I want to know I had a part in making her artist residency a reality.
Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!