# Arts in Milwaukee – Colette Odya Smith – art
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Arts in Milwaukee

A Public Service Of Milwaukee Artist Resource Network

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  • “The Heart of the Matter”The Heart of the Matter

    20" x 24" pastel over watercolor

  • “Nesting”Nesting

    20" x 20" Pastel over watercolor

  • “In High Spirits”In High Spirits

    Pastel over watercolor 30" x 30"

  • “Inside the Garden”Inside the Garden

    Pastel over watercolor 20" x 24"

  • “The Secret Door”The Secret Door

    Pastel over watercolor 30" x 40"

  • “Resonance 3”Resonance 3

    Pastel over watercolor 20" x 20"

  • “Awaiting Eternity”Awaiting Eternity

    Pastel over watercolor 20" x 20"

  • “Ivory Tower”Ivory Tower

    16" x 20" pastels over watercolor

  • “Radiance”Radiance

    20: x 20" pastels over watercolor

  • “Slipstream”Slipstream

    30" x 30" created with pastels over watercolor.

  • “Leafy Infusion”Leafy Infusion

    20"x20" Pastels over watercolor. Exploring the shadows in the waters of the Northwest.

  • “Lavish Light”Lavish Light

    20"x20" Pastel over watercolor. My take on the dappled light beneath New Mexico cottonwoods.

  • “Waterborne #1”Waterborne #1

    This painting is 30"x30" and is created with pastels over watercolor on 4 ply museum board. It is based on photographs taken of a clear spring near Ashland, WI. It was a whole world unto itself.

Colette Odya Smith

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artist bio

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Colette has been painting professionally for over 25 years. Known primarily for contemporary landscapes that are a fusion of realism and abstraction, she works in soft pastels layered over a watercolor underpainting. She earned her degree in Fine Art, Humanities, and Education from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota after which she taught art and raised two children, discovering and falling in love with pastels while taking classes at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

Her imagery has always drawn on the landscape with an emphasis on water in its myriad forms. Still rooted in the Midwest heart of America, she has traveled widely, expanding her range of inspiration while retaining her interest in the quiet mysteries and miracles she finds all about her. Her paintings strive to move beyond depiction into an exploration of what is going on both literally and metaphorically just below the surface. By close cropping and removing context, ‘realistic’ scenes can appear as abstractions. This creates room for free association and personal response, becoming the impetus for a kind of nameless knowing.

Her paintings have been featured in The Artists Magazine, American Artist, Pastel Journal and Pratique des Arts and exhibited widely in the United States and in France, Germany, and China. They have received many regional, national, and international awards. She has written articles and juried for the Pastel Journal magazine. She has also juried and offered portfolio reviews for the Pastel Society of America. She has taught for various pastel societies, the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek Wisconsin, and at the convention of IAPS, the International Association of Pastel Societies, held biennially in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Her recognitions include having been named a Maître Pastelliste and Invitée d’Honneur by the Société des Pastellistes de France, Master Pastelist by the Pastel Society of America, Eminent Pastelist and Masters’ Circle member by the International Association of Pastel Societies, and Distinguished Pastelist by the Pastel Society of New Mexico. Her work hangs in public, corporate and private collections, including the Ming Gallery Museum of Pastel in Suzhou, China. She is represented by Woodwalk Gallery in Door County, Wisconsin.

She feels blessed to be an artist and to be able to do this work she loves. Whether painting, teaching, judging, or writing, she offers her work in the spirit of service.

artist statement

It seems to me many mysteries and miracles are lying in plain sight, patiently awaiting discovery. Such things as a fallen leaf or the clouds reflected in a still pool call out to be seen and understood. My heart knows there is more going on than simple appearance and so I feel compelled to respond and explore what lessons are there to be learned. This desire to see and understand more clearly has taken form in my paintings, moving them beyond simple depiction into expressions of what I glimpse beyond the physical.

The rocks, water, and foliage I am drawn to as my subject matter, I believe, are the material expression of structural concepts and meanings that seem to be always just below the surface, literally and metaphorically. My layering of soft pastels over watercolor addresses this idea through scenes depicting reflection, transparency and indeterminate detail.

I often obscure the customary references of horizon and atmospheric perspective. In this way easy identification of the landscape is downplayed. Context and scale become malleable. This allows a broader range of interpretations and frees me to move beyond the literal. Adding to this ambiguity, I often mix reflected imagery with solid forms, begging the question of what is ‘real’ and what is illusory. These are usually ‘realistic’ images, yet often appear as abstractions.

I love creating passages of paint where one can move without concern for naming and words. The surface is available for spontaneous meandering. It becomes a place for nameless knowing. Free association and personal response is encouraged. I hope my particular take on a scene can clarify or illuminate nascent insights for others as well as for me.

Lastly, I create these paintings with pastels and watercolor and I’m charmed to be using the same elements of dust and water that inspire me to paint.