The What is Painting? Project Featuring Trina May Smith

What is Painting? Norbert Marszalek

I thought it would be intriguing to ask painters this simple yet complex question. This query comes with no ground rules—it’s up to each individual artist to find their own approach and direction.

This project will be an ongoing exploration … let’s see where it takes us.

What is Painting?
Featuring Trina May Smith

It is interesting to contemplate the difference between the act of making a painting and the act of viewing a painting. The act of painting is a process, an accumulation of marks and decisions that become a final major gesture of information. A finished painting is essentially a story or language that reveals itself completely all at once. Though the process is suggested by the physicality of the paint, ultimately it is the sum of the moves that is prominent. In my studio once I finish a painting I am relatively uninterested in it and it is the next painting that holds my attention. When viewing work by other artists that I admire, I am enamored with the product itself and want to read the marks, colors, and content in an effort to unfold the story that it possesses.

When I was younger I aspired to be a writer. I was committed and would fill my free time working through poems and stories. Looking back it is interesting to notice how quickly I gave up or, more accurately, exchanged writing for painting. Once exposed to painting there was no turning back for me and it became the creative outlet that felt the most direct and satisfying. I have often seen painting aligned with the act of writing, which does make a lot of sense to me. Painting is defined as “the process or art of using paint”. It is taking a pliable medium and applying it to a surface. At its base it is such a wonderfully simple act, yet in its simplicity it demands much of the artist. It requires the artist to fully manifest the articulation of the idea or content. This is certainly similar to the task of writing. Words are simply to be re-arranged but ultimately the intentionality of the order of the words has endless and powerful permutations. With painting, color and texture become adjectives and descriptions, and space and content become story and characters.

I do think about space, time, and subject a great deal in my work. I am interested in activating imagery as both itself and signifier. I am invested equally in the painted surface and the imagery that compels me. Within the translation of images to the painted surface there is transference of engagement and commitment that I do not feel in any other part of my life. Painting is exciting and frustrating, humbling yet empowering, and is the most intriguing and demanding creative pursuit I have ever engaged with.

Trina May Smith

Trina May Smith, Boarded 4, oil on panel, 36″ x 36″

For the past 7 years I have been predominantly making work about industrial decline and urban decay. Being from Montana, where every industry is dying, it is a subject that is ingrained in my understanding of the landscape. I attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and am currently a Lecturer of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. I am represented by the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee and have participated in numerous solo and group shows across the United States.

The What Is Painting? Project – More Featured Artists