For nearly 25 years Colette Odya Smith has been pursuing her love affair with pastels, exploring ways to express the mystery and wonder she feels in the ‘school’ of nature. While staying grounded in realism, especially her passion for water imagery, she pushes her work to the edge of abstraction and creates purposeful ambiguities to allow space for the viewer to ponder with her. She layers her pastels over a watercolor underpainting creating with the same elements of dust and water that she depicts. “I often obscure the customary references of horizon and atmospheric perspective. In this way easy identification of the landscape is downplayed. Context and scale become malleable. This allows a broader range of interpretations and frees me to move beyond the literal. I often mix reflected imagery with solid forms, begging the question of what is ‘real’ and what is illusory.”
Born in Milwaukee, she wanted to become an artist from the beginning. After getting her degree in Fine Art, Humanities, she taught art in public schools and raised two children. Discovering pastels in classes at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, she has worked nearly exclusively with them ever since.
Ms. Smith has exhibited widely in the US and internationally including France, Germany and China. Her work has won many prestigious awards and she has been named a Master Pastellist by le Societe des Pastellistes de France, Masters Circle Member of IAPS – The International Association of Pastel Societies, Master Pastelist of PSA – Pastel Society of America, and Distinguished Pastelist PSNM – Pastel Society of New Mexico. She has been published in 2 books, and been featured multiple times in The Pastel Journal, American Artist, and Pratique des Arts magazines, as well as judging and writing for The Pastel Journal. Ms. Smith offers critiques and workshops for art groups and schools.
Within the last year Ms. Smith served as a juror for “Enduring Brilliance” the 46th annual exhibition of the Pastel Society of America at the National Arts Club in New York City, one of the most prestigious international exhibitions of pastels. She had a major two-person exhibit at the Plymouth Arts Center, Plymouth, WI that featured more than 30 of her paintings. She received 2nd place honors in The Artist’s Magazine Annual Competition, and she also had work included in the 3rd Biennial China Pastel Exhibition in Suzhou, China.
Colette sees her paintings as meditations on themes of reality, illusion, reflection, transparency, surface and depth. “I love creating passages of paint where one can get lost without concern for naming and words, moving directly into thought and feeling. The surface is available for spontaneous meandering. Free association and personal response is encouraged.”