This month we’re featuring Elin Whitney-Smith for the Capitol Hill Art League’s Mind of the Artist feature. Read her story and check out her artwork below.
You can view more of her artwork here:
My first “ART” experience
In kindergarten, I painted a house with a pointed roof and tulips on each side.The teacher said, “You can’t make the tulips as big as the house.” There were kids in the class who couldn’t make a recognizable circle, much less recognizable tulips. And I couldn’t make small tulips with the wide brush she had given me.
I went home and told my aunts, who were REAL artists. They told me to paint what I wanted AND gave me better brushes.
So, art was something I could just do. I did paintings and woodcuts for sidewalk sales and local festivals. I won some small prizes. Art kept me from being only “Mrs. Matthew’s Mom”.
I also did things like posters for my son’s band. Cards for holidays, costumes, and art to hang over the couch.
The kids grew, the marriage broke up. I had another husband; he died. I had jobs. I went to grad school. I temped as a graphic designer during graduate school. I taught in various universities.
I was taking yoga at Randell Community Center and saw a poster that said, “Interested in Art? Contact the manager.” So, I did. She was manifesting an art class but didn’t have an instructor. Knowing the best way to learn is to teach. I threw together a portfolio and offered to teach. We started with basic drawing, then moved on to watercolor. I taught at Randell from 2015 until COVID shut us down. Now I teach watercolor Thursday evenings 5:45 to 7 on-line
I stress that art is in the seeing. The hand will learn as one works; the real challenge is seeing. This, I think, is true whether one is painting something “realistic”, or one is trying to show something different about the world.
The Owl Project seeks to show the pervasiveness of sexual harassment.
Some friends and I asked people, mostly women, how many incidents of sexual harassment they had experienced in their lives. 52 women and 3 men reported 1535 incidents. Then we folded origami owls for each one. We installed them at St Mark’s.
After the church installation, the Owls flew to smaller venues: Evansville, Indiana, Novato, California, and ten percent of them flew to the TAG gallery in Fredrick, MD. They have been in two movies,one for Voice of America, in Russian, and one for the 2022 Images show held by the Washington Sculpture Group and the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies. Whenever they are exhibited, I ask people to provide their incident counts. We’re now at 2553 incidents for 94 people.
Another project is “St. Adea”, a real, unnamed woman of the 4th century. She was beloved by a man who took her as his concubine. She bore him a son – Adeodatus. They lived together monogamously for 15 years. Then his mother found him a 10-year-old heiress to marry. So, with tears, he sent his love back to Africa. While waiting for the heiress to be old enough to marry (12), he became a Christian, later a priest, then a bishop, then a doctor of the church and, after his death, a saint – St Augustine.
(St. Adea altar)
St. Adea is the patron saint of unwed mothers and non-traditional families.