Anna Douglass Smith’s (C’20) depiction of the American flag through a pop-art lens.
By Oliver Heffron
Anna Douglass Smith (C’20), a senior studio-art major at Sewanee, manifests her vibrant personality and feminine artistic vision through the mediums of acrylic paint and collage. If asked by an art critic, Smith would describe her work as “figures communicated through a pop-art language.” If asked by curious child, she would explain “My work is fun, has sparkles, and is pink!” You can find Anna’s curated instagram gallery @annad.art.
Smith did not always know she would be an artist. When she arrived at Sewanee in the fall of 2016, she planned to be an art history major with a minor in studio-art. However, her teachers and peers saw too much talent in her work for her to not pursue an art major. Smith explained her major influence for switching majors: “My friend Relly King (C’18) encouraged me to focus on my work and switch majors. She was a major influence pushing me towards pursuing my passion.”
In the changing landscape of media and marketability in the 21st century, Smith drew inspiration from a successful artist, Ashley Longshore (@ashleylongshoreart), for how to distribute her art while in college. Longshore uses her Instagram as her gallery, selling her art directly to her friends. Smith started her own Instagram gallery (@annads.art) to promote and sell her work. The results have been phenomenal, receiving around 100 commissions directly through her Instagram.
Smith explained, “Since I am in school and don’t have the time to promote my work as a professional artist works, the Instagram gallery has been extremely useful in my work’s progression.”
After switching majors and committing herself to her artistic progression, Smith has been using her time outside Sewanee to expand her knowledge of the art world. In the summer of 2018, Smith took traditional painting classes at Parsons School of Design at the New School in New York City.
She spent last summer working at the Guarisco Gallery in Washington D.C., where she grew a new appreciation for the gallery curation process. Smith describes, “My experiences the last few summers, and my study-abroad trip to Florence, opened my eyes to the vast appreciation and respect for art there is around the world and encouraged me to keep pursuing a career in art.”
Through learning the traditional forms of Michelangelo and Van Gogh at Parsons, Smith gained more clarity on her specific artistic voice. She cites many influences, but most importantly the contemporary visual-artist Mickalene Thomas: “Thomas’ work is extremely influential in my choosing of female subject matters and presenting them through a pop-art lense”.
In a recent art class, Smith was charged with depicting the American flag during a “Mad-lib” exercise, in which students must create a chosen image without prior knowledge of what it will be. Smith explains the difficulty of the situation: “The color and neat imagery of the stars and stripes could not be further from my artistic impulse, so I was forced to make the pattern my own.”
What resulted was one of Smith’s favorite paintings she has made, and an eye-opening experience: “I realized the power of taking a celebrated image and running it through my creative process, how it reveals a lot about my personal imprint.”
With just a few finger slides through the @annads.art Instagram gallery, any viewer will find an abundance of colorful acrylic paintings of powerful female subjects jumping off the screen. They will also find a collection of intricate collages, a medium Smith enjoys immensely: “I would have to say my favorite medium at the moment is collages. I love the process of taking old, discarded images and synthesizing them to create something completely new and different.”