Lydia Smith is an artist based in Philadelphia, PA. She received her BA in Anthropology and Studio Art in 2015 from Rice University in Houston, TX. While at Rice she was director of the Matchbox Gallery from 2013-2015, curating over 15 exhibitions of Texas emerging artists. Upon graduation she was awarded a Watson Fellowship which allowed her to spend a year traveling outside of the United States exploring how cemetery landscapes can reflect cultural attitudes towards death. She has also completed fellowships at the Yale Summer Session at the Institute for Studio Studies in Auvillar, France (2012), and the Tyler School of Art Summer Painting and Sculpture Intensive in Philadelphia, PA (2014). 

Artist Statement

My work is visually diverse in nature, but heavily based in material exploration and mapping cultural information I have discovered through studies in anthropology. Two such apparent influences are my research in cemeteries and skin. Cemeteries inform what I create because they are visual archives of history and provide insight into the ways cultures self organize. They are also connected to my interests in the romance of destruction, the human attraction to the uncanny, and the preservation of decay. I relate to skin as a protective surface that conceals the internal, is extremely malleable, and is a significantly powerful socially, politically, and historically factor of identity. Women paint their skin with makeup, and I similarly dress my sculptures with color. 

My attraction to destruction is immediately visually apparent in my work because I am aesthetically interested in transforming materials past their common resting shape. I stretch a material’s limitations and question their identity as a singular form. I warp paper, print photographs on silk, extract and transfer magazine ink to new surfaces, and melt plastic. Formally I often use the grid as mechanism to establish order, but most of my work is collapsible; malleable and without permanent structure. This increases the ease of portability and forces the work to establish a new identity each time it is installed. 

Using Format