Skidmore Contemporary Art
March 19 – April 23, 2022
As critters begin to emerge from their sleepy burrows and honeybees depart their hives in search of freshly produced pollen, it’s the perfect time to enjoy new blossoms that Spring has to offer. Skidmore Contemporary Art, of Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station, is aligned with this seasonal shift, offering a plethora of large-scale flower paintings by Brighton Smith. In Paradise Garden, the environment is at once refreshing and soothing. Although displayed within enclosed gallery walls, it’s as if we’ve stepped into a garden filled with tranquil ponds and vibrant blooms that are larger than life, all under a balmy afternoon sky.
For Brighton, a resident of Mesa, AZ, flora and fauna have been a chosen subject matter throughout much of his painting career. The influence of his surrounding desert landscape has been especially evident in past collections, having been represented by assortments of cacti and succulents. In this current body of work, however, he has chosen as his muse the fruits of moisture-laden environments that feature botanical beauties, including water lilies, tulips and birds of paradise. Furthermore, the artist has provided us an abundant spectrum of floral chromas, with petals of magentas, soft whites, oranges, silver greens, lilacs, reds, and even flourishing blacks.
Throughout this collection (all works from 2021), the artist has realistically rendered flowers and placed them within nonrepresentational backdrops. In this way, Brighton’s potent designs come across. Magenta Water Lily offers a lone, albeit, vivid lily that seems to hover rather than float atop a reflective surface of deep purples, is framed by contrasting bright green lily pads.
In Red Tulip, intertwining petals of rich red and silky white overlay a vertically striped background of black and teal blue. The tulip’s near unfurled formation seems an acquiescent chalice of nectar, if you will, for those rapidly approaching honeybees. Star Lily presents itself bolder yet, with multiple lilies leaping out like tangible fireworks, their slender white petals and delicate red filaments outstretched towards the viewer.
Brighton captures elements of the natural realm like someone who has spent many hours observing, and understanding, its essence. One can almost sense the energy pulsing through these stalks, the very synthesis of sunlight at play. As frequent a subject that flowers might be, the artist manages to paint their beauty through his own unique blend of both fragility and fierceness. These compositions, although stemming from references of a soft nature, possess a robust, statuesque quality. It is through beauty and evolutionary resilience, after all, that flowers have continued to inspire passion since the dawn of man.
Cover image: Red Tulip; all images courtesy of Skidmore Contemporary Art, photographed by the author.