In the tradition of mentorship and the handing down of knowledge from parent to child, Steve Smith was originally taught by his father in the Kwakwaka’wakw style of painting. Today, these origins remain the foundation beneath bold experiments in form and colour. Intuitively and seamlessly, Smith interprets tradition through the changes and challenges of personal history. He credits a recent heart attack and a triple bypass surgery for altering his palette from the red, green and blacks of Kwakwaka’wakw art to a polyphony of colour. He writes that, after the surgery: ‘I found myself in the paint aisle and I was filling a basket with every color imaginable, and yet I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with them. As I sat down to paint a piece, the colors seemed to jump into my hands and found their way onto the painting…. I truly believe creation comes from the heart and when my heart flowed freely, the artwork finally had it’s chance to do the same.’
Smith’s work has been featured at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Burke Museum, Seattle; and Ontario’s McMichael Gallery. Public works include the City of Vancouver’s ‘Spirit Bears in the City’ project and two major installations for the Vancouver International Airport.