The News-Times Ridgefield, January 2007


A show has opened at The Ridgefield Guild of Artists barn on Halpin Lane that merges the mystical and the symbolic.

Described as “yin and yang” the artists are Kim Hanna and Phil Demise Smith, both guild members.

“Their palettes are very different,” said guild exhibitions director Debra Browne. “Phil’s works mostly with a primary color palette and a lot of black line. Kim has a softer and muted palate with certain hues reoccurring.”

The show is called “I & I,” which symbolizes the meeting of two visions. It is Hanna and Smith’s second joint show; their first was held at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury in 2005.

“Kim is very well trained and I’m a totally untrained artist,” Smith said. “But we’ve come together in a visual way of experiences ourselves in our work.”

Smith describes his paintings as reflecting “a moment that represents a lot of things that came up to that moment.” A poet and artist, Smith found “reinforcement” for his self-taught artistic style in the works of French artist Debuffet, prominent in the 1960s till his death in the 1980s, and a group of artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. Both Debuffet and CoBrA worked in art from the subconscious, with childlike imagery.

Hanna describes her paintings as being the antithesis of representational art, expressing the feeling that a beautiful image gives her or how she relates to an experience. Images crop up again and again in Hanna’s art – those of birds, water, women and masks. Perhaps she is expressing the mystical woman in her paintings, she suggested.

“I look at the images as guides to take me through the work,” Hanna said. “I really trust the process. I don’t come to the canvas with a plan. I weave the threads that come – the colors, the image. When it’s done, it’s a feeling.” Hanna’s work can be found in collections worldwide and was selected in 2004 as part of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum’s emerging artist series. Her award-winning work has been exhibited in galleries and juried group and solo shows throughout the country. She now serves as artistic director of the Ridgefield Guild of Artists.

Smith spends his time between his home and studio in Ridgefield and New York City where he teaches a children’s poetry and art class he developed in the New York public schools system. He has represented self-taught artists from New York and Europe. Smith is a published poet who began painting 20 years ago. He has works in collections worldwide and has been exhibited in group and solo shows around the globe. Like Hanna, each of his works is autobiographical, as it “captures moments of (my) emotional life and presents it as a fragment of (my) whole life,” he said.

“The work I do – painting, writing, music, parenting, teaching – are all part of my universe, my one poem that is my life,” Smith said.