(Part of our ongoing series profiling 100 Houston-area artists. No rankings; no order. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday for another edition.)
What he does: You'll never find a cutesy bouquet of roses or frolicking puppies in Smith's work, which has ranged from depictions of suicides to animal mutilation. That's because the "The King of Pain," which the Press once dubbed him in conjunction with his "Thousand Scars" exhibition, isn't all about that. "Of course most people loathe this view and would rather see a pretty patch of flowers hanging over their couch," says Smith.
Why he likes it: Smith explains, "I didn't really like it! That particular way of working was more of a catharsis than a pleasure. I felt very isolated and depressed, especially since so many people became angry with the messenger rather than the message," says Smith, who, for a long time, stopped painting about his personal tragedies to focus on his Museum of the Weird. Smith's now-defunct venue, which used to be located in a two-bedroom house at 824 West 24th, "was sort of a secret museum, open to the public, but not for the public . . . we exhibited the kind of works that other museums would keep hidden in their vaults." Installations included a pet crematorium, a dome of silence and a house of pain.
What inspires him: In short, people who take a different path in life, according to Smith. He should know, especially considering his other artistic pursuits that included "The Million Dollar Hotel" exhibit/debacle that saw Smith and Paul Horn transforming/wrecking the entire top floor of the Holiday Inn Select at Highway 59 and Kirby in 2002. "Unfortunately, artists who make the hardest choices more often than not end up dead and broke, but that's the price they pay. Sometimes the rewards are not measurable, but yet worthwhile."
If not this, then what? Instead of directly answering the question, Smith marinates on what he's done and what he might get his hands into in the future. "I sold the museum after ten years. It had become a burden to tell the truth. Also, we almost burned down the neighborhood a couple of times and I'm still on the seven-year arson list," says Smith. "I've gone back to painting, but it's not the same. No dead bodies or injustices, just some interesting juxtapositions of landscapes and architecture. If a new interesting direction doesn't open up soon, I guess I'll have to start carving out some kind of new hole in the universe."
If not here, then where? Smith owns farm property north of Houston and it may be ripe for another left-field experiment. "I've got some crazy ideas about farming and architecture."
His proudest moment? Hands-down, The Truck of Trampolines desert-residing machine that, because of its setup, could never be accurately documented or even explained. "In the day from the outside, it looked like a heap of junk . . . if you wanted in, you had to crawl through this twisting hole," says Smith, who adds that only a few hundred folks rode the thing. "At night, I would pull the heap way out upon the dark plain and some of us would start jumping. All people could see was some vague undulating mass in the darkness. Inside, it opened up like a giant black flower with a wisp of red light glowing from below. As our feet flew from plane to plane in the inky darkness, I would spin the dark orifice in a giant arching circle. All you could do was look up into this magnificent void of the starry-spinning night and fly!"
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page.)