In the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette River Valley & Ozark Edition

Delighted to be featured in the "front & center" section of the Sunday paper. Below are some excerpts. Here is a link to the full article "Canadian Artist Finds Inspiration in Arkansas". 

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Photos by William Harvey

Story by Tammy Keith

Sunday, January 21, 2018

“I am unusual in that I move between mediums a lot. I have one I’m usually in love with, but it shifts. Right now, I’m really interested in paper,” she said. “I’m super interested in cotton.”

The Canadian has lived in Arkansas since 2011 and loves her rural life; it’s why she came to Arkansas. She grows 30 to 40 brown Nankeen cotton plants on her eco farm, Wildland Gardens. She also uses the stalks of some of the flowers she grows to make paper. “Daylilies make great paper — not the actual flowers, just the leaves,” she said.

The recipe to make paper includes boiling the grass for hours outside in big pots, which she said reminds her of a witch standing over a cauldron. The mixture is strained and blended. “It becomes like a really gross garden smoothie,” she said, laughing.

The rest of the long process is so time-consuming that even she says, “it’s silly.” But it’s so satisfying.

“I think it’s important because we’re interested in localism now. … How do we connect to a place? It’s incredibly local to make your own paper,” Cowper-Smith said.

“So often now, we feel alienated from our things. We order on Amazon; things are made in China,” she said. “A lot of people are seeking a deeper connection to the materials in their lives and the products in their lives.”

...

Cowper-Smith said that although she won awards for art in high school, she first took science and math courses in college, planning to become a biologist. “I just didn’t realize art could be a serious thing to study,” she said. “I thought science was more worthwhile, so I didn’t study art. It seemed like a hobby.” However, she met serious artists at the University of Victoria, and she switched her major after a year.

“I belong with artists; I always have,” she said. “I like the way they think.”

In 2013, Cowper-Smith founded an all-female artists group in Arkansas called the Show & Tell Art Collective, now called Culture Shock. Although Cowper-Smith didn’t experience a huge culture shock in Arkansas, most of the nine or 10 women in the group are transplants to Arkansas, thus the name, she said. The women all have master’s degrees in art and are “currently making a body of art,” she said. They hold critiques and exhibit their work.

Cowper-Smith’s work was selected for the 31st annual Small Works on Paper touring exhibition at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock, where it is on display through Saturday. The free exhibit is sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council. Her piece selected is a pigment print titled Convention Fire on her handmade paper. “It’s a mix of lilies and cotton,” she said. “I made that paper while I was at Penland. “This work depicts a burnt-out version of the derelict convention center at Meadow Creek in Fox. It was an important meeting place for people concerned with the environment and global climate change in the 1980s-1990s.”

Cowper-Smith said her work is ever-changing. “I’ve always loved drawing,” she said. But pigment paper is getting her attention now. She creates it by taking digital photographs, which she uses to make paintings, “not directly from them, but parts of them, mixed up,” she said. She scans the paintings and uses Photoshop software to blend them together, something she has done for “years and years.” She also makes videos of the work using the “layers” of the Photoshop program, she said. “I make animations, a form of digital stop-motion animation, and prints,” she said. “When I have a show, I will have a projection of the video, and usually it’s the same scene.”

Cowper-Smith enjoys depicting scenes of nature through her pigment prints. Not long after her family moved to Arkansas, a deadly tornado tore through Vilonia and Mayflower. “That was new to me,” she said. “I started thinking about natural disasters. I started thinking a lot about how you can love the beauty of the landscape but also have this fear of it, and how it can almost betray you. It can take your life and destroy your stuff.”

She said Arkansas has been a good place to create art; it’s a constant inspiration.

 

2018 Small Works on Paper

"Now in its 31th year, Small Works on Paper is a juried visual art exhibition that showcases artwork no larger than 18 x 24 inches by Arkansas artists who are members of the Arkansas Artist Registry. The Arkansas Artist Registry is an online gallery showcasing the artwork of Arkansas artists. Membership to the Arkansas Artist Registry is free and open to all Arkansas artists.

The Small Works on Paper exhibition travels to 10 venues throughout the state in a yearlong show, offering Arkansas artists an extraordinary opportunity to showcase their artwork to patrons all over the state. This year’s entries were juried by James Phillips, an associate professor in the Department of Arts at Howard University in Washington, D.C." - Arkansas Arts Council

Convention Fire, 2017, Pigment print on handmade paper (cotton, daylily, hosta, bamboo, and yucca), 15 1/2 x 21 inches

Convention Fire, 2017, Pigment print on handmade paper (cotton, daylily, hosta, bamboo, and yucca), 15 1/2 x 21 inches

This year a piece titled “Convention Fire” was selected. This work depicts a burnt out version of the derelict convention center at Meadow Creek. Meadow Creek, located in Fox Ar, was an important meeting place for people concerned with the environment and global climate change in the 1980-1990s. This print is part of my most recent series “Traces Remain”. 

This is my second time participating in the small works show. My work “Fire Start” was selected in 2016. It’s an honor to be included in a group show that is so widely viewed around the state


The exhibition will travel around the state to the following venues:

January 4-27 Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Little Rock 

February 5-23 Harding University, Searcy

March 5-16 Arkansas Tech University, Russellville

April 2-30 Community Creative Center, Fayetteville

May 3-29 University of Arkansas Rich Mountain, Mena 

June 4-July 13 The Arts Center of the Grand Prairie, Stuttgart 

August 2-28 Henderson State University, Arkadelphia

Oct. 2-27 Batesville Area Arts Council (Gallery on Main)

Nov. 2-29 DeltaARTS and Arkansas State University Mid-South, West Memphis


This years artists include

Lloyd L. Litsey, Little Rock

Jason McCann, Maumelle

Glenda L. McCune, Little Rock

Cheryl N. McMickle, Marianna

David McRoberts, Sherwood

Emily Renay Moore, Conway

Michael Preble, Hot Springs

Lynn Reinbolt, Searcy

Charlotte Rierson, Fairfield Bay

Jane Rockwell, North Little Rock

Steven B. Schneider, Fayetteville

Robert R. Simmons, Little Rock

Mitchell Skinner, Grady

Leslie Toler, Little Rock

Neilann Brown Verdell, Sherwood

Elizabeth Weber, Little Rock

Steven Wise, Rogers

Emily Moll Wood, Little Rock

Kathy Bay, Sherwood

Lynn Bell, Little Rock

Maria Botti-Villegas, El Dorado

Lyn Brands, Conway

Michael S. Church, North Little Rock

Brian Cormack, Little Rock

Melissa Cowper-Smith, Morrilton

Kristin DeGeorge, Hot Springs

Rex DeLoney, Little Rock

Terry Lynn Dushan, Fayetteville

Melissa Foster, Conway

Bryan Frazier, Little Rock

B. Jeannie Fry, Cabot

Elissa Gordon, Mountain Home

Diane Harper, Little Rock

Marion A. Hotz, Russellville

J. Kathleen Keefe, Little Rock

Historic Arkansas Museum acquires two prints from Traces Remain

These two works from Traces Remain have been added to the permanent collection of the Historic Arkansas Museum

Dorm Bathroom, 2017, Pigment print on handmade paper (cotton, bamboo, yucca, daylily and indigo dyed cloth), 17 x 21 inches

Dorm Bathroom, 2017, Pigment print on handmade paper (cotton, bamboo, yucca, daylily and indigo dyed cloth), 17 x 21 inches

We Are Not Ok, 2017, Pigment print on handmade paper (cotton, daylily, bamboo, hosta, yucca, and indigo dyed cloth), 21 x 16 inches

We Are Not Ok, 2017, Pigment print on handmade paper (cotton, daylily, bamboo, hosta, yucca, and indigo dyed cloth), 21 x 16 inches

Traces Remain

TRACES REMAIN Opened Friday May 12th and continued through August 6th 2017 at Historic Arkansas Museum, Trinity Gallery. Honored to show with Dawn Holder.

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Curator, Carey Voss, writes

"Melissa Cowper-Smith is enamored with memory, with forgetting, with the fleeting nature of everything around us. Her recent work is filled with markers of anxiety: abandoned building projects, roads made impassable by fire, domestic spaces empty of inhabitants, a sense of urgency and constant movement. Bright, saturated hues reminiscent of Color Field painting and sinuous gestural marks may initially turn the viewer’s attention toward surface and form, but delve deeper into the layers of atmospheric space created by collaging photographs digitally, and the work as a whole pushes toward an exploration of content. Melissa’s multimedia art is trapped between worlds: the past and its love of analog processes and handwork, and the present/future with its preference for the slick digital surfaces of high-definition photography and video. Cowper-Smith’s 2D pieces begin as acrylic paintings collaged with photographs and manipulated using specialized computer software. The resulting images are then pigment-printed onto paper made by hand from cotton and other plant fibers grown at Wildland Gardens, Melissa’s eco-farm. Each still image, each print, represents only a single moment in Cowper-Smith’s stop-action videos, multimedia projections that play with the representation of time’s passage and the ephemeral quality of memory. Melissa Cowper-Smith grew up in Canada where she received a BFA in painting from the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Later, she received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Hunter College in New York City. Melissa and her husband moved to Morrilton, Arkansas in 2011."

Nasty Women

 Nasty Women, March 2017, Russell Fine Arts Gallery, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR

My piece "Porch Fire, 2016" was selected for the "Nasty Women" show at Henderson State University.  The show has received some local press: Idle Class Magazine  and in the Arkansas Times

Press Release from Henderson State University:

Henderson State University’s Russell Fine Arts Gallery will host the works of 32 female artists from across the nation March 1-31.

The exhibition, entitled Nasty Woman, celebrates the female voice in art. It will be held in conjunction with women’s history month and will open with a reception March 1 from 2-4 p.m. The public is invited.

Nasty Woman explores topics dealing with the woman’s perspective, from reflection on historic female figures, to contemporary issues surrounding the female body, the political climate, and varied iterations of the experience of being a 21stCentury woman.

The title of the show stems from recent events plastered throughout the media. While it was first mentioned in a derogatory context, it has become a uniting force among women across the globe. For many, it represents strength, unity, and the ability to use one’s voice to be heard. The participating artists interpret their reactions through a dynamic use of photography, printmaking, painting, sculpture, and video pieces.

The gallery is located on the first floor of the Russell Fine Arts Building. It is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Admission is free.

The artists included in the show are Zina Al-Shukri, Heather Beckwith, Darcie Beeman-Black, Megan Berner, Cynthia Buob, Beverly Buys, Melissa Cowper-Smith, Norwood Creech, Nancy Dunaway, Margo Duvall, Melissa Gill, Mia Hall, Diane Harper, Tammy Harrington, Heidi Hogden, Robyn Horn, Erin House, Jeanie Hursley, Catherine Kim, Kimberly Kwee, Joli Livaudais, Angie Macri, Hannah May, Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, Catherine Nugent, Emily Rogers, Dina Santos, Kasten Searles, Katherine Strause, Brittany Wilder, Kat Wilson, and Miranda Young.

Penland School of Crafts

I spent two weeks learning about handmade paper from Mary Hark at the Penland School of Crafts. Filled with gratitude to have been awarded a Horn Scholarship to cover all tuition, accommodations, and meals giving me the opportunity to concentrate fully on making paper.  

The Topography of Handmade Paper

Soft and airy or tough and bark-like, paper can carry a smooth-as-glass surface or become a field of lush texture. This workshop will begin with a thorough investigation into paper-making fibers and traditional tools. Production of high-quality papers suitable for use in books, printmaking, and sculptural forms will lead to a personal exploration of surface, texture, color, and the use of natural dyes. Each person will find ways to fuse the materials that address their own aesthetic concerns.

Painting 360°: A Look at Contemporary Panoramic Painting at the Butler Center, Little Rock

Honored to be included in the second exhibition of this inspiring thematic group show curated by Matthew Lopas. 

Painting 360°: A Look at Contemporary Panoramic Painting
This exhibition features works in a variety of media by artists who explore the possibilities of looking at the world beyond the edges of a viewfinder as they create images on curved surfaces.
Artists whose work is featured in Painting 360° include Marcia Clark, Nicholas Evans-Cato, Christopher Evans, Amer Kobaslija, Jackie Lima, Matthew Lopas, Carrie O'Coyle, Dick Termes, and Melissa Cowper Smith.

Butler Center Galleries
February 12 - April 30, 2016
Reception for First Friday Art Walk
February 12, 5 – 8pm

Gallery Information:
401 President Clinton Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201
501-320-5790

Hours:
Monday-Saturday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

2016 Small Works on Paper

"Now in its 29th year, Small Works on Paper is a juried visual art exhibition that showcases artwork no larger than 18 x 24 inches by Arkansas artists who are members of the Arkansas Artist Registry.The Arkansas Artist Registry is an online gallery showcasing the artwork of Arkansas artists. Membership to the Arkansas Artist Registry is free and open to all Arkansas artists." -- Arkansas Arts Council

Here is a list of participating artists.

2016 Touring Schedule

The Exhibition will tour the state through different venues all year. 

January 5-29   Batesville Area Arts Council

Feb. 4-26         Hendrix College, Conway

March 4-30      Arkansas Tech University, Russellville

April 1-30         University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

May 6-27         University of Arkansas, Fort Smith

June 4 - July 9   Searcy Art Gallery

July 19 - August 27   Delta Cultural Center, Helena

Sept. 1-29         Art Center of the Grand Prairie, Stuttgart

Oct. 6-26           University of Arkansas, Monticello

Nov. 2-28          University of Arkansas, Hope

This was the first time I have applied to be in the small works on paper show. I am thrilled to have been selected. 2015 was great year for me showing in Arkansas. I had a solo show, titled Fleeting Gardens at the Batesville Area Arts Council Gallery in March (2015). In the past year my work was selected for the Delta and the Art of the South (Memphis). I hope to carry this momentum into 2016. In addition to having a work in the small works on paper show, my critique group, Culture Shock will have a show at the Butler Center Concordia Gallery from April-August 2016. Press about the show in the River Valley & Ozark edition Arkansas Online. 

Fire Start, 2015

Fire Start, 2015

"Fire Start" is printed on homegrown, harvested, and hand-prepared Nankeen Cotton paper. I grew the cotton on my eco-farm, Wildland Gardens. The image is printed digitally using HP Vivera pigment-based inks. The imagery in "Fire Start" originates in both painting and photography. The print represents a forest edge and vast desert. In the forest a small fire has started. The work comments on the monumental environmental changes caused by removing and burning trees. The loss of trees results in top soil erosion, greater daily temperature changes, and an increased likelihood of drought and flood. I seek to capture our environmental anxiety- the feeling of dynamic changes in the land and our memories of natural places.

Painting 360 Group Show at Hendrix College

Gabe, 2015, Digital print

Gabe, 2015, Digital print

Participating Artists - Marcia Clark, Christopher Evans, Nicholas Evans-Cato, Jackie Lima, Matthew Lopas, Amer Kobaslija, Melissa Cowper Smith, Dick Termes, Carrie O’Coyle, and Sanford Wurmfeld In this show contemporary artists work with the possibilities of looking at the world beyond the edges of a viewfinder. Their processes require each artist to turn their head as they make their image. The level and plumb pictures we are so accustomed to give way images that are either on a curved surface, or have curves and turns incorporated into them. Location: Art A LobbyDates: September 7th to October 30th, 2015 Reception: Thursday September 7th from 5:00 to 6:00pmGallery Talk: Matthew Lopas, Thursday September 7th from 5:30 to 6:00pmPublic Gallery Hours: 3:30 – 5:30 Monday to Friday

Art of the South in Memphis TN

My work will be part of this group exhibition, now open at Hyde Galleries in Memphis. The reception is this Friday evening. I will be there! Hope to see some of you!

From Juror Wayne White:
I was recently asked to look at the work of 166 talented artists and pick 40 for a show. The results? 126 disgruntled artists muttering “What does he know?” And they’re right! What do I know? Please keep that attitude, my fellow artists. You have many victories ahead. As for the rest of you, please savor. This is a wonderful show. Inspire each other, secretly know you’re the best one and keep trudging out to that studio every day. I’m very happy to see such a perfect storm of creativity roaring across the South.

Number: Presents
Art of the South 2015
Opening Reception, May 29 Trolley Night

May 20 – July 31, 2015
Memphis College of Art
Hyde Galleries
477 South Main

M–F, Noon–5pm
Sat, Noon–7pm

Show & Tell Art Collective Exhibition at Lyon College

The first group exhibition, August 18 - September 19, Kresge Gallery, Lyon College. Show & Tell Art Collective members Dawn Holder, Melissa Gill, Tammy Harrington, Holly Laws, and Morgan Page.