Natalie Smith

Nothing Within or Without, August 13-September 14, 2021, Bad Water, Knoxville, TN

What, exactly was the beginning?

I have been having the sense that I must go back there before I can go forward. I must understand the very seed of creation to understand this destruction. And we don’t have a moment to waste.

And so I present to you in haste, a room of kisses.

In 1927, the Dutch Jesuit mathematician and astrophysicist Georges Lemaître determined what the ancient sages, mystics, and knowers had already been wailing from the stone tablets and papyri for millennia, that an expanding universe could be traced to a single point of origin: the “primeval atom”.

And what of this moment, the empyrean beginning ?

And what of its smallness and what of its greatness ?

Despite popular terminology, it wasn’t big, and there was no bang.

And what of this moment that was not seen?

And what of this vision that could not see for itself?

If it ever existed at all: only as a particle, as essence, as feeling?

Having to think with my eyes so much has made me wonder about optics and tricks and our most coyote sense, our sense of seeing.

Funny thing to be a painter and not want to trick the eyes

It’s a very funny thing actually

It is what we call: going against the grain.

Because vision, in its most impure states, can be sick and can be distorted, like all of the terrible angels.

Vision can see a planet covered in concrete for the sole purpose of domination and conquering. Vision can make a whole history full of paintings that advertise bodies and goods for sale. Vision turned art into a sixty four billion dollar marketplace. Vision transforms our purest states-desire and pain-into contorted murderous rage for our fellow man.

But vision can also be perfect, which is exactly why we love our vision so much.

It can be completely perfect.

Lygia Clark and Iris Murdoch said it and many others too I'm sure: our vision is not only optical. This is something I care deeply about but as a painter it puts me into a strange relationship with a medium that has been understood for at least centuries to be presenting not only tricks but also something to the eyes and the eyes alone.

But the eyes are never alone.

Like the Eye of Fatima, vision emanating from a slit though her palm, we cannot escape the eye of consciousness because it is us.

Our vision is us and our eyes are never alone.

One Buddist teacher says to another: The problem is not desire. It is that your desires are too small.

The canvas will bend and curl                                                    There is the moon
The boards will stay fixed                                                           There is the sun

No subject                                                                                         No figure                                             
No object                                                                                           No ground

During the fertile week of ovulation, the cervix softens and feels like lips.

They took a bite of an apple but let's be real

They kissed.

I paid a lot of attention to the princesses when I was a young child. Their hair happened to look like mine in those Grimms books and I saw what happened Oh how the frog was utterly transformed Oh how I saw it so clearly.

I care about these things like I care about the medium too.

I have stood by it all of these years afterall. Calling myself a painter come hell and high water and I assure you it has been both. And I don't plan on stopping anytime soon.

The medium being the color, the mark. The medium also being the canvas, the surface.

And the third thing too:

Like the table covered in white linen on which the palm reader holds your hand in theirs,

The Medium being the space of transference.

The space of perfect vision.

In Spain, France, Indonesia and surely elsewhere, the mark of the hand has been found on the cave walls. Forty thousand years old or more. Because before there was art there was painting and before there was painting there was the imprint.

And so I present to you the mark and the surface

As simple and pure as I can imagine here for you now.

I have no more time for knowledge of any other kind and the Earth she is telling us that she doesn't either, have time.

The beginning of all creation

I will give it all away. 

    Lost, oil on woven canvas, 26x26” 2020


Lost (detail)

The Eternal Idol, oil on woven canvas, 14x24”, 2021

The Eternal Idol, oil on woven canvas, 14x24”, 2021


The Eternal Idol (detail)

Ecstasy, oil on woven canvas, 26.5x19” 2021


Agony, oil on woven canvas, 18x22” 2021

The Third Thing, oil on woven canvas, 28x18” 2021

Dream Blanket
Summer 2020 
Gondola Wish Remote Viewing Platform

This piece was made as a project for the collaborative gallery platform Gondola Wish in the summer of 2020. It began as a stream of consciousness writing that poured out from the prior six months of processing and deep transformation in the space of global pandemic, quarantine, and social unrest.  A blanket is a place of protection, enclosure, and softness to hold the violent and necessary rhythms of our life and our dreams.  This work is a place for me to lay down the readings, the scribblings, the headlines, the horrors, the solitude, and the yearnings of this moment. 

For a number of years, my paintings have dealt with the braiding of physical and psychic factors that allow for our survival. There is knowledge, rational thought, food, and shelter and there is also our spirit, our imagination, our souls, our dreams.  I am now considering how survival may depend on our confronting the intersections between deeply personal and collective experiences. C.J. Jung wrote about an idea called the transcendent function; a process of moving between and uniting the conscious and the unconscious minds to achieve greater wholeness.

In our beds, we perform the rhythms of sleeping and waking, our eyes opening and closing, moving between a metaphoric death and rebirth.  In those rhythms, we reconcile the inner and the outer worlds. As we negotiate these dualities daily, maybe we are already aware that they, along with the personal and the universal, are always only one thing.

The wholeness of all things has never been so apparent. And so we must sleep, wake, and dream to achieve the fullness of our individual and collective minds, without which a better world may not be possible.