‘Seven Moons’
Shinique Smith (American, 1971)
Private Collection, Courtesy David Castillo Gallery
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Earlier this month we reported that the Rose Kennedy Greenway mural at Dewey Square is slated to be emblazoned with an abstract vibrancy fostered by the boundless imagination of world-renowned artist Shinique Smith. The mural, which will overtake the starkly contrasting, though equally beautiful, Remanence: Salt and Light by Matthew Ritchie, is expected to be completed in September.

Smith is an artists whose works range in size, scope and form, as do her larger and more complex showcases. Not only is the Tufts University & The School of the Museum of Fine Arts grad in the planning phase of beautifying Dewey Square with her multifaceted masterpiece Seven Moons (see: above), though it’ll likely have a new name, but she’s also helping to put the finishing touches on her first solo exhibition in New England at Boston’s celebrated Museum of Fine Arts.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the MFA for a sneak peek of the exhibit, aptly called Shinique Smith: BRIGHT MATTER to examine how her various works, 30 in total and 14 newly created specially for the display, sync seamlessly with the work that’s to be displayed overlooking at Dewey Square. The show has been in the works since 2012.

In passing I was able to make Smith’s acquaintance, though understandably she was busy helping to make last minute logistical tweaks – lighting, text, sound, balancing, hardware touch-ups, etc. – to the exhibit before it opens on Saturday, August 23.

Lucky for me, I was left in more than able hands.

An embodiment of the powerful spectrum of expression that, for Smith, ‘leans towards joy.’

Jen Mergel, the Robert L. Beal, Enid L. Beal and Bruce A. Beal Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, showed me around and helped formulate the sometimes indiscernible features and precise characteristics of Smith’s work. Upon doing so, she opened up a whole new world of interpretation ingenuity for me to digest.

Smith works in of the abstract expressionist variety, though her works differ from the traditional style in that she often incorporates visceral traits and humanistic characteristics from her own life and experiences in the form of distinct fabrics, materials and objects, among many other personalized traits.

By doing this, she’s able to connect with her audience on a deeper, sentimental level. Take Seven Moons, for example. At first glance, the colors pop off the wall and the centered diamond is apparent. The seven moons from which the piece’s namesake is derived are visible in sweeping brushstrokes and the entire canvas appears to be quartered off in four enunciated sections.

Upon keener inspection, though, one will notice textiles adorned with fireworks patterns, floral designs, and the plastic cover of an on-the-go coffee cup, to name just a few of the hidden items. Nearly every single iota of art incorporated in a single original piece is derived from Smith’s, or her friends’ and family’s, own possessions.

As Mergel explains it, “Some of Shinique’s work is about density, bringing materials together and then much of her gesture is about release… Much of her work is in collaboration with art history or with pop culture and other things that she sees.”

Smith’s artistic background spans the entire spectrum. From Japanese calligraphy to tagging and graffiti art to interpretive dance, Smith’s dextrous expertise is exactly the kind the Greenway is looking for.

Some of Shinique’s work is about density, bringing materials together & much of her gesture is about release

Before Ritchie’s mural decorated the massive wall sitting across the street from South Station, the space was occupied by painting created by two Portuguese brothers which spawned racial slurs and ignorant comments towards people of Middle Eastern descent.

Part of the beauty of Smith’s of the mural that’ll bear a striking resemblance to Seven Moons, and all of her works for that matter, is that they evoke feelings beheld only by the individual. She doesn’t make any overt statements – political, dubious or otherwise. It’s quite the opposite, in fact.

In a statement issued by the MFA at the beginning of August, Smith’s craft was described as a reflection of ” how to visually manifest emotional connection, belief and the resilience of human energy through gestures and materials that shape daily life… an embodiment of the powerful spectrum of expression that, for Smith, ‘leans towards joy.'”

And what could elicit joy more so than the site of that electrifying yellow expended from the mural set against a bold, blue sky? Or perhaps a watercolor sunset? What mirrors the circulation of the pedestrian traffic along the Greenway better than the plentiful curvatures courtesy of the painting?

Stay tuned to BostInno for more information about the Greenway mural and Shinique Smith’s exhibit. The mural is expected to be completed by September 23 at the latest but things do change. Such is life. Looking forward checking out both? Leave your thoughts and knowledge in the comments section below.