Bulletin News

Brooklyn artist explores landscape concepts with fiber


SUNY Cortland’s Dowd Gallery is inviting people to come out of their pandemic-induced isolation and remember how to play.

“(re)Play,” a solo show by Brooklyn-based artist David B. Smith, launches the gallery’s spring semester exhibitions with a series of recent and re-interpreted fabric-based sculptures, objects, collages, installations and interactive environments.

The exhibition opened Monday, Jan. 23, and will run through Friday, Feb. 24. Visitors will experience playfully constructed fiber environments resembling other-worldly bodies and landscapes that border on abstraction. Smith pushes traditional arts-and-crafts mediums like textiles, photography, embroidery, tufting and painting to new territories.

An opening reception and exhibition tour will be held in the gallery from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26. The gallery is in the Dowd Fine Arts Center on the corner of Prospect Terrace and Graham Avenue in Cortland. 

The exhibition is free and open to the public, as are the opening reception and all exhibition-related events. These include a virtual artist’s talk, a gallery walk-through, an artist’s workshop, a documentary screening and additional live and virtual presentations that contribute new perspectives on the exhibit.

Smith noted how, during the pandemic, people were separated from communal spaces and lost connection to each other, to their somatic experience and the practice of interaction and improvisation.

“By re-introducing my earlier interactive installations, visitors are encouraged to come out of their shells and rediscover their joy and curiosity,” he said. “And through presenting my intricate collages, soft sculptures and photographic weavings, I want to share my vulnerability and creativity by offering a visual, communal meeting place for others to explore theirs.”

Smith’s 2021 work, “Being,” contains photo-based archival dye print on velvet. In the above left image, Smith’s 2017-23 piece, “The Space Between,” is made of recycled artist-made billboards, foam, staples and nylon string.

Besides the ideas of play, the exhibition offers a meeting place between disciplines such as textile art, psychology, biology and gender studies. Objects on display make space for visitors to explore not only the art but themselves, their actions and intentions.

“The process of my work is central to its meaning,” Smith said. “I begin by having emotionally resonant images from digital collective memory woven into a fabric, which I then use to create work composed of beings and phenomena from imagined other worlds.”

Visitors can physically interact with certain pieces: for example, sliding colorful translucent textile collages along taut wires to alter the architecture, light and aesthetic tone of the space.

“By using these objects to create ephemeral environments, I invite the viewer to build a dialogue around fictional habitats as a way to re-imagine our relation to identity, gender, biology, ecology, psychological health, problem-solving, memory and the joy of improvisation and play,” Smith said.

Smith’s process of re-interpreting narratives and offering what’s possible aims to invite viewers into this layered and unique process, potentially sparking them to consider their own creative practices, whether they be art or in any other discipline.

Accompanying “(re)Play” in the adjacent Hallway Gallery is a display of works from Smith’s earlier exhibitions, “Forms of Potential.”

Smith's 2021 piece, “Codemap,” features embroidery, collage and beads on computer-woven tapestry.

The Dowd Gallery website and social media contain detailed information about additional programs to the opening reception and contain online link invitations to “(re)Play” virtual events. Visit the Facebook, Instagram and the Dowd Gallery website. Live events are in the gallery unless noted otherwise.

“(re)Play events will include:

  • First Friday: Friday, Feb. 3. A guided tour of the exhibition has been organized by Cortland Arts Connect to take place from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will be both live and virtual.
  • Virtual artists’ talk: Audiences can ask questions about the artist’s creative practice and inspiration for “(re)Play” during a virtual event on Webex at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
  • Documentary screening: “Threaded,” a compilation of shorts, will be presented at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
  • Gallery Talk: Erin Morris, a SUNY Cortland associate professor in sport management, will explore the intersections of fine art and sport through the lens of gender inequality, in “Between Sport and Art: Gender Biases at Play,” at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Morris will examine how socially assigned gender roles are reinforced within sports and art and how we can possibly break down some of those walls.
  • Gallery walkthrough: Smith will give a guided tour from 2 to 2:45 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 13.
  • Artist’s Workshop: Smith will offer a “Communal Weaving” session from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15, in the Dowd Center Fiber Studio, Room 101. Participants may bring an item of clothing or leftover fabric to be cut into strips and woven into the communal sculpture framework built by Smith. The work will utilize fibers, textiles, collage, mixed media, sculpture and improvisational weaving, resulting in an interactive part of the “(re)Play” exhibition where participants are co-creators.
  • Virtual Gallery Talk: Katarzyna Zimna, associate professor of art at the Lodz University of Technology, Poland, will give a virtual discussion in Teams on “Artist, the Player” at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21. This talk explores the popular notion of play in the art world, its theoretical context, as well as its particular manifestations that can be traced in the history of art.
  • Documentary Screening: The 2019 film directed by Halina Dyrschka, “Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint,” will be screened at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Thursdays, and by appointment. Visit the Dowd Gallery website for details about exhibiting artists, other programs, safety protocols and online booking. For more information or to inquire about an appointment, tour or additional images, contact Gallery Director Jaroslava Prihodova at 607-753-4216.

“(re)Play” is supported by the Art and Art History Department, Art Exhibition Association and a Campus Artist and Lecture Series grant.