Over the past ten years, I have habitually visited hundreds of cemeteries and burial sites across borders and cultures. This project of conceptual tourism investigates spaces where life, death, and memory are uniquely entangled. Engaging with ritual acts of wandering, tracing, and close looking, I listen through a palimpsest of ghostly layers. The main bulk of this research exists within my lived body as it has pressed itself into the architecture of others long gone. I am reminded that this world we make together was born of the dead and will be inherited by thefuture. Whether I am driving down the highway or spot their location on a map, the cemetery continues to lure me in and act as a magnet for new questions. Most recently:

What does an image not hold?

How do we simultaneously mourn and celebrate the unknown?

How canI make place for the experience of freedom in the face of extinction and crisis?

Place is the common theme across all my work. I am interested in how we navigate and make meaning through the action of wandering through, in, and out of space. Unpacking phenomenological, historical, and subjective responses to landscape(s), I imagine place as a body: alive, breathing, and ever-evolving. This body’s boundaries are slippery - a meshwork of vibrant matter. Acknowledging that the map is not the territory, I pursue a better understanding of my subject’s anatomy through an imaginative archeology that relies on techniques of layering and transparency. My work also has a deep investment in local relationships that emerge as collaborative actions and participatory invitations, with the belief that community is a tenant in the production of place.

Working withdrawing as my foundational language, I borrow a research practice from ethnography, weaving collected experiences into experimental forms of video, sculpture, abstraction, performance, and site-specific intervention. I simultaneously adopt and challenge the apparatus of the map, the archive, and the document, seeking to sit my work in the gap between the tangible material object and embodied knowledge. I am an anti-disciplinary artist.


Lydia Smith received her BA in Anthropology and Studio Art from Rice University, where she directed the student exhibition space, Matchbox Gallery. She has also completed residencies at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, the Tyler School of Art Summer Painting Intensive, and the Yale School of Art Summer Session in Auvillar, France. In 2015 she was awarded a Watson Fellowship to spend a year traveling outside of the United States researching how cemetery landscapes can reflect varying cultural attitudes towards death. She is currently based in based in Columbus, Ohio and is pursing her MFA at The Ohio State University. 

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