Tiffany K. Smith “Let’s talk about who didn’t come.”

“Good evening everyone, and welcome to Dave Gallery…”

For the reception of her first solo show at Dave Gallery, Tiffany K. Smith made the quaint gesture of giving a speech. I supposed it to be a “welcome, hi, how are you, this is my work” speech. I was wrong. Smith’s apparently self-effacing presentation doubled back on itself, and my understanding of it went from indulgent awareness of this artist’s nervous first time out to a growing knowledge that I was being played, and then respect for the artist’s control over her work, its public face, and my understanding.

“The only thing worse than missing something is wishing you did.”

“My work is easy to make, it’s obviously self absorbed, cliche, and worst of all it takes time to look at.”

“I’m happy to see most everyone I know here tonight, I did notice that some people didn’t make it. I’m sure you’re asking yourself, ‘Who are these people that aren’t here?’ I just wrote down a few names: …”

Tiffany K. Smith is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. I know that Smith also makes videos, two were featured in her recent exhibition and several more are available for viewing on her website. The brief “My Car’s Ball Sack” is my current favorite:

My Car’s Ball Sack from Tiffany K. Smith on Vimeo.

In “Untitled (Group Dynamics)” Smith engages in a book throwing fight with two male colleagues (David Bell and Noah Spindler). In fact this is a three-way free for all and sides are not taken, but… Tiffany K. Smith plays her hand wisely, knowing that the men will hold back from really hurting her, she delivers stunning blows to her two adversaries. Then – with a book hurtling toward Smith’s face – the video ends. We never get to see that particular coup delivered.

So, by this denial, I am left feeling sympathy for the Smith character, doubly so because I really wanted to see her get it. This is an old Hollywood trick and it always works. She looks hot, too. She wears black stack heel boots, black tights, and an animal print miniskirt. The guys? Are wearing jeans and shirts in dark colors. Whatever – it does not matter and life isn’t fair. Group dynamics indeed, as well as relationship aesthetics.

“Untitled (Group Dynamics)” and “Splitting Hairs” were included in Smith’s recent exhibition, and both are available for viewing on her website or her Vimeo site.

Hmm. There is a two-edged aspect to the work of Smith’s that I have seen: her “welcome to Dave Gallery” speech seems innocuous at the start, but as she gathers momentum shrapnel starts flying and people get hurt. As vulnerable as Smith shows herself to be, and each time an artist shows work this vulnerability is revealed, she also holds us accountable. She calls out those who didn’t take the work seriously enough to attend, and we are “beautiful” if we are looking at her work.

Being any sort of an artist is a curious mix of self-absorption and generosity – I mean, in one sense as an artist one is putting ones stuff out there, no one asks for it (at first anyway). But within that stuff, people can find themselves, and culture is recognized; and the risk that you take as an artist by performing this service deserves an equal amount of respect from a viewer.

Such are the dreams. Selling this idea is a challenge. Persuading people to pay attention is a tough job. Smith and her colleagues act not as though they have a right to our attention – they never seem to ask – instead, it seems to me that they’ve looked around the room and found what is showing wanting. Um, right on. No competing for favors. No asking permission. I’m paying attention.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *