Former art teacher repurposes his knowledge and found objects into sculpture

SIREN—Former art teacher and sculptor David L. Smith found himself at a loss after retiring from teaching four years ago. “I was struggling with having a focus after retiring. I missed teaching children and went through a bit of a depression for a while. Then I decided to start sculpting. My Master of Fine Arts degree is in sculpture, but it went by the wayside as life got busy.” It seems to have been the right move, as Smith will be hosting an exhibition of his work at Tesora Event Center June 1 through June 6.


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“I just like the shape of elongated wheelbarrows,” says sculptor David L. Smith. In this piece, he uses that shape along with an antique wood planer and nutcracker to recreate a barge.

Smith taught K-12 art at Siren for 17 years, at Webster for five, and also taught classes at UM – Duluth. His art has also been featured at One10 Gallery in Frederic and Headwaters School of Music & Arts in Bemidji.When pressed, he describes himself as a found-object artist. Smith uses pieces he finds in second-hand antique and junk stores to create his sculptures. With influences from folk art, surrealism, and outsider art, Smith views his creations as “entries into a journal of my life. It’s my way of communicating with others-what I think about and feel.”

The finished products are not pre-planned, Smith admits. “Usually, I find a piece in a store and an idea comes to me. I feel my strong point is playing with items that fit together like a puzzle.”


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Postcards from the Past features repurposed items such as a type-set tray, parts from an old organ, rulers and various handles to build a skyline.

One such example is Blue Jam, which features a clarinet on top of a stacked wooden base. “One day, I was trying to make some room in here, and I stacked a scrap piece of wood on top of another,” Smith shares. “I happened to look back at it and thought ‘hey, I like that.’” Those very two pieces of wood form the base of the sculpture, although one has since been transformed into a piano keyboard through paint and dominoes.

Dominoes feature heavily on many of his pieces, serving as substitutes for lights in skyscrapers or stars in other works. But again, Smith doesn’t worry too much about which ones he uses. “I like to see how the pattern comes out.”

At any one time, Smith may have four or five sculptures in progress, which makes sense when you consider some of the construction he is doing. “That way, when I’m waiting for something to dry, I can move on to another piece, and then back. If I only had one going at a time, I’d be sitting around a lot.”

Smith says he is thankful to be able to spend his time in the pursuit of something he loves to do. “My wife, Marilyn, has been very supportive of me just tinkering around in here. I feel teaching children has brought me where I am today, and that Jesus has given me this time to experiment.”


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Postcards from the Past features repurposed items such as a type-set tray, parts from an old organ, rulers and various handles to build a skyline.

Also featured at Smith’s show will be photography by his sons: Simon, 33, currently stationed with the U.S. Navy in Hawaii and Bobby, 29, of Siren. The elder Smith says, “They picked it up on their own, but I’m proud of how skilled they are.”

Time Funnel – Sculptures by David L. Smith, will be exhibiting June 1 to June 6 at the Tesora Event Center. Join Smith at his opening receptions from 5 – 8 p.m., Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2.

This article originally appeared here via Google News