Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Mackenzie-Smith.
Sarah, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I grew up in Los Angeles. You could literally see the Hollywood sign from our kitchen window. The neighborhood was filled with exhibitionist and eccentrics. Transplants from all over the world who would happily share their tale of escape from old boring lives. Real weirdos with great stories. I’ve noticed as I get older the only times I’ve felt truly comfortable in social settings is when I’m amongst weirdos. I guess that is why I’m so close to my family. They are some of the strangest, most interesting people I know.
I’m very grateful to them for the freedom they gave me growing up. Rather than try to curate my time like so many of my friend’s parents did, they would let me explore and discover what interested me. Even if that meant laying in the garden for hours collecting slugs, or taking a painting I was working on from the paper to my naked body. Rather than yell at me, my mom grabbed a second paintbrush to help while my dad got the camera to stage a photo shoot in the back yard. Too bad the woman in the apartment behind us decided to call the cops.
I’ve always been interested in art, and I really got to explore painting in high school. I was fortunate to attend the Los Angeles County High School For the Arts (LACHSA). I was extremely prolific at this time, which is funny to say because I was only 14 but I painted constantly. I would have friends over and we would stay up all night just making art.
I received my BA from UCLA, where I began to experiment with other mediums. I made a lot of video, sculpture and installation work and took classes with amazing female artists like Barbara Kruger and Mary Kelly. UCLA had a highly conceptually driven program, and during my time there I tried to fit in but by the end of it I was back to painting.
As a student, I also worked as a docent at the Hammer Museum, and once I graduated, I bounced around all kinds of different creative jobs. I taught creative drawing and painting, did freelance illustration, set painting for MTV and Vice, celebrity makeup gigs, not to mention a few quasi legal endeavors that I won’t share here! Today I work for my folks as a lab assistant at Mackenzie Medicinals. An award-winning, family-run company that produces herbal tinctures and medicinal tonics 😉
I currently live in Highland Park with my handsome, grumpy cat Boots, and my husband Andrew Sexton. The biggest weirdo of them all. You can read his dark and nihilistic interview at http://voyagela.com/interview/art-life-andrew-sexton/.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
When I graduated I went straight to work, and for a year or so I took a break from art. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make. After a while, I began to draw from home. I didn’t have a studio at the time but I really wanted to paint so I taught myself to watercolor from books and youtube videos. Watercolor is the medium I’ve been working in for the last five years and the first piece I learned on was a 5-foot long psychedelic botanical landscape. That drawing took me about eight months to finish. It sort of felt like my coming out drawing. It was as if I was swallowed whole, dissolved, digested, and then born again as a jungle of carnivorous, poisonous, psychedelic plants.
My gardens as I like to call them, are culled together from clip art, photographs, botanical illustrations, and observational drawings made from trips to the Huntington gardens, or even walks around the neighborhood. They serve as curated spaces for me to explore allegorical narratives that interest me. Life and death, spirituality, feminism, beauty, and decay. Most of the plants in my drawings are exotic or endangered, and it’s sad to think that a lot of them will disappear within our lifetime.
The work is very time consuming, but it’s a labor of love. Although it took a while, I think I’m finally beginning to understand watercolor. Now I grow my gardens in a small studio in Chinatown, between a chicken butcher and a bootleg t-shirt shop.
Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
Try to make whatever art other people want. After a while, I promise you won’t ever want to do that again.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I recently had a show of my paintings at Charlie Roquette in Highland Park. I am currently hauled up in my studio working on a new body of work but you can see most of what I do on my website, sarahmacsmith.com or on my Instagram account @smackenziesmith.
- Website: sarahmacsmith.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @smackenziesmith
Photo of “Body Farm Superbloom” by Abby Sin