Fetish \ˈfe-tish\ :an inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.
When we speak of installations, we conjure up memories of three-dimensional work that would fill up a wall or even a room – at times whole environments are created. So when an installation artist such as Wendi Smith builds small boxes, we should not be surprised that each one might come across to the viewer as a miniature installation.
The wooden objects are adorned with images representing small organic items that are matched by the actual items themselves, revealed when we open the snug and perfectly fitted drawers. Seashells, seedpods feathers, and small twigs are placed inside, intimately positioned with beads and thread; handmade bits that echo the forms found in nature.
“A long fascination with ritual objects has brought me to fetishes,” states Smith. “A fetish may be a figure or a non-figurative object that is associated with a spiritual connection, magic, or offerings. Creating a fetish is a way of making a prayer or intention physical, of calling upon an unseen power, of trying to influence that which we cannot control.”
“These particular pieces are culled from found natural objects, and influenced by Native American design. They are not intended to be powerful or magical, except in the reverence for Nature in which they are designed and executed.”
If Smith doesn’t seek to overwhelm with these fetish boxes, there is still undeniable attraction in their mystery and discovery. The viewer is inextricably drawn to the sensuous warmth of the well-crafted wood and to the preciousness of the objects contained within. They might be seen to replace the aged cigar boxes and old canning jars that those of us of a certain generation can recall using to safeguard found treasures in our childhood. And what can be more powerful than memory?
This past June, Smith was a part of Curio Cabinet, a curated group exhibit at the Indianapolis Art Center. In February 2018 she will have a solo show at garner narrative contemporary gallery in Louisville.
Hometown: Corydon, Indiana
Education: BS Art Education, Illinois State University 1972:
MS Painting, Illinois State University, 1975
Gallery Representation: garner narrative (Louisville)
Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.