Roxa Smith Painting: Essentials

Essentials – 18"x36" oil on canvas, 2009

Interiors and Landscapes

In these interiors and exteriors, I strive to capture and then distill fleeting moments in time and seek to illuminate the “spirit” of a space. The images are often devoid of people yet evocative and teeming with life, intended not to purely document a place but rather to portray its essence. I concentrate on the architectural details, source of light, and complex patterns within a composition. The isolation and juxtaposition of these elements creates a picture that is anything but a straightforward view.

I admire medieval tapestry because of the tension present between the pictorial depth and the flatness of these woven surfaces. I try to take a similar approach in my work, contrasting perspective with details and pattern repetition to create a visual tableau that playfully manipulates space. My paintings border on the voyeuristic yet are reverential depictions of places that engulf the observer in a luminous concert of color and warmth.


The spaces we inhabit or visit each take on an individual character and sensibility in our minds, a memory of the time we passed there, of the company we shared. These voyeuristic paintings depict actual places, recalling their essence without seeking to faithfully recreate them. The intimate scale in this ongoing series of gouache on wood portraits, often only 5 by 7 inches, invites the viewer to enter the room, to experience the narrative quality within the quiet space, devoid of people, yet evocative and teeming with life.


Robots, toys and dolls are souvenirs of a simpler time in our lives and this series of paintings serves as a window through which we reminisce. The images often recall toys of the 1950s and 60s, an era when the onset of the Space Race and the rise of technology mesmerized Americans with possibilities as infinite as the galaxy we endeavored to conquer. Colorful recollections of childhood and of history, while painted in our memory as happy and playful, mask emotions of fear and uncertainty that inevitably accompany the loss of innocence.


Animals' ability for unfettered expression is both enviable and foreign within the boundaries of humanity. We are restrained in behavior by our nature and by society, to the extent that one can imagine an animal mocking our comparatively reserved demonstrations of love, need or anger. These paintings transpose a penguin or an elephant, a cat or a bird into spaces customarily inhabited by people, where they may boldly flirt or converse with the bravado we lack. The tone is set for a story to unfold in the human arena transformed by animal instincts.


The opulent portraits of the Renaissance indulged each sitter with a luxurious portrayal, their external likeness as they wished to be seen. 16th and 17th Century portraiture is reinterpreted here, preserving the lush aesthetic of the period but seeking to render instead the subject's internal likeness by replacing facial features with symbolic references to thoughts or emotions. The outline of the face remains as a border around the mindscape, a visual representation of the momentarily revealed subconscious.