Mimi Smith is a freshman who is planning on majoring in studio arts here at Sewanee. The other day, I stumbled upon her art through her Instagram account (@mimismithart), where she focuses on the human form – more specifically eyes – with such a unique perspective that consistently enhances her work. I decided then I wanted to speak with her about the artwork she creates, as well as more personal influences that propel it forward.
“I probably started doing art when I was five…” Smith said, “I’ve always loved doodling. I actually got serious about it probably my freshman year [of high school] or maybe eighth grade.” Throughout the interview, she often touched on the familial aspect behind her art. Smith mentioned how her grandmother, also an artist, is a significant influence on her work.“It’s always been a part of me, I guess. It’s comforting,” Smith said. She continued, “My grandma is a big inspiration. She does these crazy, abstract pieces that just make no sense, and I love them.”
Other major influences on her work include Malcolm T. Liepke. She said, “My favorite artist is Malcolm T. Liepke. He’s so talented, and he has this way of capturing people. It’s almost sad but beautiful. I don’t know, I just love his artwork.”
His influence is visible immediately. Behind both Smith and Liepke’s work, there is an indistinguishable melancholy tone beneath the way that they represent the human figure, both through expression and their intelligent use of color.
Paint is her favorite medium. “I like oil painting, acrylic painting,” she said. “I would say it’s a therapeutic process, Smith said, “It’s fun to just sit down and have all the colors at your hand and be able to create something.”
Her motivation continues to be her academic drive. She said, “I think most of the time when I’m making something, it’s for fun, but when it’s assigned for a class, I always try to do better than my last piece. I feel like that’s my motivation.” Much of her content focuses on the body. Smith said, “I feel like if I had a central meaning for most of my pieces, I guess it would just be the human experience.”
Smith’s informal artistic thesis correlates strongly with a recent artistic endeavor she explained to me, when I asked her, finally, what her ideal setting for creating art is.“I recently did a drawing where I was outside for, like, two hours, and I loved it,” she said. “It was of a bunch of trees, and it was super calming. It was an assigned project, and I was sitting out there and was like, “Damn, I need to do this more often.”