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Local artist inspired by Appalachian heritage

August 24, 2016 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
Paula Smith believes that in every life there is a work of art.

The distinctive beauty of the Eastern Kentucky landscape and the lives of its people are unmistakable in Smith’s artwork. Her cultural exhibit, “Appalachian Brush,” will run through September in the Weber Art Gallery at the University of Pikeville.

“As an artist, I draw my inspiration from my life as a child of Appalachia,” said Smith. “I stand in awe of our beautiful, ever changing mountains and the secrets they hold. I strive to bring life to forgotten moments of our people … people that are as strong as the very landscape that surrounds them.”

A Pikeville native, Smith is an adjunct instructor of art at UPIKE.

Smith incorporated her love of the region and its long mining heritage into her work. A daughter of a coal miner, she developed a unique method to include coal and coal dust in watercolor painting.

“I started using coal as a medium since it has been imbedded in my life,” said Smith. Like many people from the area, for generations her family members were coal miners including her father and grandfather.

Smith experimented for six months with coal from different seams in Pike and Floyd counties and parts of West Virginia. She mixed the coal dust with a variety of binding agents before developing her technique.

“Each seam of coal works differently with the watercolor,” said Smith. “Coal changes the texture of the watercolor. Some coals are grainy and include dirt while others are extremely black in color depending on which seam the coal came from. Coal miners bring coal to me or I travel to mine sites to collect samples.”

On display in the exhibit are pieces ranging from Smith’s early student work to commissioned pieces. The featured works demonstrate the highest level of technique and vision and include oil, printmaking, watercolor, pencil and even a fingerprint portrait.

A longtime educator, Smith has inspired art students for nearly three decades. She has taught at the junior high and high school levels in Pike, Floyd and Fayette counties. She has also served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Pikeville for more than 10 years.

Smith received her bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Kentucky and her master’s degree in studio art and Rank I from Morehead State University. She is a member of the Kentucky Teachers Association and has served as cultural director of the Pikeville Main Street board.

An accomplished artist, Smith’s creative works have been displayed at the Mountain Arts Center, East Kentucky Expo Center, the Arts House, Rustic Roots and the Mountaineer Hotel. She is also the owner of Quail Ridge Studio, her personal art business. Her commissioned pieces and prints have sold across the country and in Ireland and Wales.

Smith will discuss her artwork during a reception on Friday, Sept. 9, at 3:30 p.m. The community is cordially invited to the art show and reception.

The University of Pikeville’s Weber Art Gallery is located on the second floor of the Record Memorial Building. For more information, including gallery hours, contact Pat Kowalok, chair, division of humanities and professor of art, at (606) 218-5758. Contact Smith at (606) 794-6331 to arrange a group visit to the exhibit.

The works of Paula Smith, including “1915 Miner,” are currently on display
in UPIKE’s Weber Art Gallery in an exhibit titled “Appalachian Brush.”

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