Most nationally renowned artist don’t exhibit with their students. Then again, Clifford Smith isn’t most artists. And over the years, his classes with four students led to genuine friendships.
“Together Again,” a new exhibit at McGowan Fine Art, celebrates the growth of these students — Sally Ladd Cole, Ellen Davis, Kate Miller and Catherine Tuttle — and the pride of their teacher. The exhibit will run through Dec. 16.
Smith is prepping for an exhibit in La Jolla, Calif., and has shown in New York City, Boca Raton and Maine. He has taught in a variety of settings, including public schools, the now-closed Notre Dame College, and the New Hampshire Institute of Art. At NHIA Smith proposed teaching an adult painting class, but there wasn’t enough interest to merit an entire class. However, the students who were interested were really interested. "
So they began meeting anyway. The classes were held at Kate Miller’s daughter’s house. There were five or six students who learned from Smith. Over the years, the core group of Cole, Davis, Miller and Tuttle remained. The classes moved over to Smith’s studio in Henniker. This went on from 2001 through 2004.
“I do not impose myself on my students,” Smith said. “I don’t tell them to paint like me. Paint like yourself. Paint your perception of what is.”
What Smith did try to do was broaden the vision of his students. He asked them to incorporate all five senses when they paint.
“It is my opportunity to expand their way of looking at things,” Smith said. “When there is a transformation of a 3-D reality onto a 2-D surface, that demands understanding of deep space. They understood that and really flourished.”
Smith said Sally Ladd Cole has exhibited in a variety of places, as has Tuttle, who exhibits regularly at McGowan Fine Art. He said Miller just paints — she isn’t concerned with exhibiting. Smith said the group exhibited several years ago but busy schedules have kept them apart. He approached Sarah Chaffee at McGowan Fine Art and asked her if they could have a reunion of sorts.
“I admire his work,” Chaffee said of Smith. “They’re all local artists so I thought it would be a good thing to do. Plus many of the scenes are local so they’ll be easily recognizable.”
The works on exhibit at McGowan will primarily be New England landscapes. This gives visitors a common subject of which they can see different interpretations from different artists.
Chaffee said the exhibit shows the breadth of landscape painting. There are some works that are traditional, showing restful and bucolic scenes, but there are also works that are more contemporary and blur the landscape with light and motion.
“Clifford certainly helped them to stretch their wings and push the boundaries of what could be beautiful,” Chaffee said. “He has been extremely supportive and it is generous of him to show with them.”