My Exhibition, “Painting for Myself” and the Reception.

September 13, 2015 was an inviting day. Warm sunshine splashed the sidewalk as people spilled in threes and fours through the wide open friendly doors of the Old Town Art Center. The crowd came early to enjoy the show, the food, the wine, the friends and the paintings. Buying was brisk. Out of 42 images on display, 20 were sold by the end of the day.

I greeted the guests as they came through the doors . So many surprises —there were the Towbins, Jennifer and Steve from Winnetka, past patrons whom I had not seen in ages and delighted to see again. Eileen Leeming, long time friend, from Florida to see the show, Colette Holt from San Francisco. Then there were hosts of my former students and many of my neighbors. The guests were wonderfully varied and came from the city and suburbs as well as those from far away places.

I thank all of you for coming and making this a successful exhibition and for the deep pleasure we all experienced being together. And a special thanks to The Old Town Triangle Association for their help and for the Old Town Gallery for the exhibition.

Thank you, Leslie Wolfe, Triangle’s director. We could not have had the success we enjoyed without your advisement and guidance. Also thanks to Barbara Guttman. Leslie’s work mate, for her cheerful hands on help when we needed it. And for taking messages for me concerning the exhibit.

Thanks to the Lincoln Park Village for their promotion of my show and help for me through their intern, Courtney Wilson.

I must thank my Team K– Julia Smith, Karen Burnett, Ruth Kimerer, Bev Hossa, Jeanette Keogh, Danny Lena, Steven Rosofsky. These eight individuals are the spark plugs, the generators of the work I am doing. Their help working together to pull this exhibit out of my archives and putting it together for display was what enabled me to have this show. It was My Team, My Team, My Team. Need a drum roll here. Hearty Thanks team. Another time I will tell this whole story and about each member. A story that should be told.

“Painting for Myself” is an expression of me that is unfettered by anyone’s input but my own–they come purely from the inner artist. Some of these subjects relate back to my American Legacy Collection. “Isla, Christina, Spain” is one sketched when I was “following the footprints of Columbus”, 1991, across the south of Spain. It is a direct sketch of the three caravels as a possibility to use it in a show later.  “Genoa, Italy,” the birthplace, of Columbus is another painting from that trip.

Ordinarily these would have gone into The American Legacy Collection but at the end of a month painting in Spain I had a plethora of subjects on Columbus and did not need these two. It is to help me with the future of the American Legacy Collection that my team was formed—to work to see it placed in a facility that will use it for education.   In this we need help that you out there can provide.

If you would like to help me raise money for my American Legacy Collection Foundation, host a fundraiser or contribute or if you have an idea on where we could place the American Legacy Collection, please email me at akaysmithartist@gmail.com.

What a joyful day it was. My heart is full.

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The Uninvited Speaker – A memory of July 4, 1933.

Dearly Beloveds—

Let me tell you a story of a benchmark 4th of July in 1933 when I was 10 years old. The celebration that planted the American flag forever in my heart.

The 4th of July “doin’s” as mother called it was an all-day picnic, fireworks, and a program held in the Civil War Memorial Park in Vernon, Illinois. It was a small park on a little piece of the prairie set aside at the edge of town years ago to honor our Civil War dead. It was bounded on two sides by cornfields. Canopies of oak trees completely shaded it. I love this little park to this day.

The park had a first-rate bandstand and band. The stand was built with six sides and always newly painted white and green for the 4th. The members of the band were splendidly dressed in colorful uniforms of blue and red with gold braid, stripes, whistles and caps with celluloid bills.

The bandleader was a veteran of World War 1. He led the band with his left hand. There was no arm in the right sleeve of his bright uniform. It was neatly folded back and pinned to an epaulet on his right shoulder. “Given in the service to his country” father never failed to point out to us children. In observation we were expected to stand in silence beside him for two minutes. And we did.

People dressed up for this occasion. Women made new clothes for their children to wear and they either made a new dress for themselves or bought one at the Dry Goods Store. The men & boys shed their overalls for the day and came in a nice shirt and pants with a new belt. How we looked was important.

So now we come to the crux of the day, the uninvited speaker .

The speeches had been given, the prepared program completed, songs sung and now the mayor of the town steps forward and asks “is there a veteran or anyone here who has a word they would like to say before we conclude with the pledge of allegiance?”

When Dutch Looie approached the podium and asked in broken English if he could speak, an astonished hush fell over the crowd. “This is America, said the mayor. Please come –take the podium. We are celebrating free speech.” He took his place on the bandstand and faced the crowd. I knew Dutch Looie. He was a German emigrant who lived in another little town near us, Shobonier, Illinois. He was a veterinarian and often came to our farm to treat a sick cow, horse, or hog. His wife Frieda came with him sometimes and brought little cinnamon cakes and said “yah”, yah” no matter what we said to her.

They always were barefoot and in worn brown coveralls. And now to my intense embarrassment for him, he was barefoot and dusty in his brown coveralls—on the 4th of July! … on the podium, barefoot and in worn but clean brown coveralls!

In my new white dress Mother made for me with it’s red cherries embroidered on the collar, I slumped down in my seat. I writhed in an agony of embarrassment for him—so much so I didn’t hear what he was saying causing mother to poke me sharply with her elbow and say “sit up straight and listen.”

He was an ox of a man—strong as an oak tree and there he stood planted on our podium in brown coveralls and barefoot. His words began to reach my ears. His sweeping handlebar mustache quivered and animated the air as he spoke. In broken but careful English, he was telling us his gratitude for America.

How good life was in America. How we could work in freedom—move in freedom – travel in perfect freedom. “One can travel the whole United States “ he said, “and never have to carry personal papers. There are no borders. You have free schools, free libraries, and a man’s worth is judged on his honesty and ability, and not where he comes from.”

Then he stopped, turned and left the stage. His ovation was thunderous. Men and boys did not whistle or shout out hurrahs. Overcome with emotions the crowd showed their hearts with continued clapping and surging forward to shake Dutch Looie’s hand.

And I? He had embarrassed my sense of propriety, but he had flooded my conscience with an awareness for others I have never lost. He stirred my 10-year-old mind. He enlarged my sense of history to a place beyond family history, beyond our farm or Vernon, Illinois. His barefoot left a giant footprint on my youthful self.

I sign off with these words to Dutch Looie. Of all the speakers I have heard since July 4, 1933 none has moved me as profoundly as yours did more than 80 years ago. That day I learned what “love my country” means.

HAPPY 239th BIRTHDAY AMERICA!!!

Kay Smith

Mother’s Day

The Metzger Homestead

The Metzger Homestead

May 2015

Dearly Beloveds,

A flood or remembrances crowd my thoughts on this passing Mother’s Day. I am revisiting in my thoughts of our old farm house where my five siblings  and I grew up. I remember how we were each scrubbed, pressed and combed and then told  “sit on a chair”. So there six of us would be like birds on a branch waiting for the moment to leave for church wiggling and squirming ready to fly out the door when “let’s go” was called.

I remember with great affection our old Methodist Church. Built by the men in the community years before me, it stood on its own corner of the prairie at the crossroads to Vernon, Illinois and Shobonier, Illinois with four miles to either town. It was not a pretty church. There were no trees to soften its profile against  the landscape. No plantings to hide the stone blocks it rested upon to raise it above the ground. The wind whistled under it in the winter and generations of rabbits nested under it in the summer. It was never locked for it had no lock. Just lift the latch and walk in stranger and take shelter.  Spare and unassuming, forthright as the prairie it stood on.

My mother was the choir leader. Every Sunday she thumped out wonderful spirited music on the old upright piano and the choir would swing into “Bringing in the Sheaves”, “Brighten the Corner Where You Are”, “Old Rugged Cross” with gusto and praise to God.  And you can be sure  that we six would be  in the front row in full view of her sharp watching eyes.

Mother’s  Day was a big church observance.  At a door wide enough to drive a team of horses through, two women of the congregation stood. One held white carnations and the other held red carnations.   As we entered each person or family was asked  “is your mother among the living?” – those who said yes were given a red carnation  and all others received white carnations.

When I was about nine or ten I  began to see Mother’s Day as sad. We children would be given red and Mother was given white. It was about this time of my life that I noticed how a shadow of sadness passed over her face causing her mouth  to curve down and the sparkle leave her eyes for a moment and even her body seemed to wilt somewhat.  A chill ran through me. Someday I would be the one to receive a white carnation.

I did not know my mother’s mother. She, my grandmother, died  long  before I was born. I carried her name. My goodness, it registered with me that my mother had been a little girl too with a mother just like she was to me. My curiosity was set off  and I began to listen to our family’s stories with a keener understanding.  This was family history Mother said and part of our heritage.  Oh wow, family history made me feel tall in the saddle.

But wait –the winds of change were brewing.  Politics entered my life in 1932 when FDR  won the  presidency from Herbert Hoover.  Father was so indignant he sold a pig and bought  a radio to keep track of Mr. Roosevelt. He was a “dyed in the wool” Abraham Lincoln Republican and thought it the only party worth “beans”.  The radio opened door after door after door to the world for us of stories way beyond our community life and our church.

Thus it was that my childhood experience of family history to national history and then world history laid down a level path that  I would eventually follow and become an American historical artist, an on-site researcher, painter and teller of our American history and what it means to be an American.

Hear this– and remember that we are all part of history—we are all  joined together Holding Hands With History. And realize this too—you can’t let go not even when you are physically removed for we all leave our mark on the timeline of history and every individual on that timeline is important to his time and the shadow you cast no matter how small or short, how long or tall it remains an imprint handed down to our next generations.

Kay Smith, Painter of the American Scene

Red Tails Escorting the B17s, by Illinois Artist Laureate Kay Smith

Tuskegee Airmen Red Tails Escorting the B17s, by Illinois Artist Laureate Kay Smith Here’s a link to the page where you can find out more

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