Pure gold 

Williams-Smith, Smith in silverpoint.

click to enlarge ROSE AND SHADOW: Silverpoint by Marjorie Williams-Smith at Hearne Fine Art.
  • ROSE AND SHADOW: Silverpoint by Marjorie Williams-Smith at Hearne Fine Art.

Marjorie Williams-Smith and Aj Smith are two of Arkansas's finest artists. Williams-Smith is known for her silverpoint flowers, small meticulous and beautiful renderings of petal, stem, the pin holding the flower in place. Aj Smith — known more for his portraits in pencil — is also drawn to silverpoint, thanks to the character of the mark. The marvelous draftsmen gave an extraordinary talk Saturday at Hearne Fine Art, which is hosting an exhibition of their work in the medium, on the technique and the artists of past and present that use it.

Silverpoint is not for the faint of heart. Preparing the paper to receive the tiny bits of silver shed by the wire tool requires multiple layers of primer — either clay-based or a calcium-carbonate gesso — which can take days. (It is easier now than in the past, Williams-Smith explained, when artists used spit and ground bone to prepare their surfaces. Prepared paper can also be purchased, for a steep price.) It is an absolutely unforgiving medium, too, because once a line is made it cannot be unmade. No mistakes allowed.

Williams-Smith's interest in silverpoint was spurred by an exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center many years back. She made her first tool out of a ring her mother gave her ("she always supported my art," Williams-Smith said) and has continued to make her own instruments out of silver and copper wire of various gauges and point shapes.

The Hearne exhibit, "Reflections in Silver," which has been extended into the second week of August, features the dried roses and other flowers whose folded miniature landscapes Williams-Smith renders in the finest of lines and cross-hatching. Several of the pieces are quite dark, as if portraits of flowers at night, and quite beautiful.

Aj Smith has mastered light and dark to give volume to his portraits of African American men, women and children; he has filled whole areas of the paper with lines so subtle they create a soft and solid area of shadow.

A unique attribute of silverpoint is that the lines — like silver — slowly tarnish and change. Copperpoint lines undergo similar changes. The atmosphere literally contributes to the work, something Williams would have no other way.

Hearne, which often includes special educational events tied to its exhibitions, will host a workshop with Aj Smith in upcoming weeks. The gallery is located at 1001 Wright Ave.


Speaking of...

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    September 16, 2016
    Aj Smith's portrait of Dr. Joycelyn Elders is just one of several great works of art you can see now at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at Ninth and Broadway. The museum uses Natural & Cultural Resources Council grants to build a collection of work by African American artists, most (if not all) of whom have an Arkansas connection. /more/
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    In conjunction with the exhibition "AfriCOBRA NOW: Works on Paper," artists Kevin Cole, Michael D. Harris and Moyo Okediji will attend a reception tonight (Friday, Sept. 9) at Hearne Fine Art, 5:30-8 p.m., and give a tour and talks Saturday at 10:30 a.m. /more/
  • AfriCOBRA also here, at Hearne Fine Art

    June 23, 2016
    A perfect partner with the "Here." show at the Arts & Science Center of Southeast Arkansas: "AfriCOBRA NOW: Works on Paper," at Hearne Fine Art. /more/
  • Museums increase holdings in African-American art

    December 30, 2015
    New York Observer writer Daniel Grant follows the New York Times in his reporting on the move by museums to acquire art by African Americans in his Dec. 22 article, "In 2015, Art Museums Scrambled to Beef Up Holdings of African-American Artists." New York Times writer Randy Kennedy beat Grant to the punch with the great Nov. 28 piece, "Black Artists and the March into the Museum." Both articles reference Arkansas: Grant mentions Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's acquisition of the Faith Ringgold painted quilt, "Mayas Quilt of Life," from the estate of Maya Angelou for $461,000, and Kennedy interviews former Razorback basketball star Darrell Walker about his collection of African American art, specifically Sam Gilliam. /more/
  • Speaking of Sam Gilliam

    November 30, 2015
    Maybe you'd like to see work by Sam Gilliam, or Betye Saar, mentioned in a New York Times story that ran Sunday (its online version is terrific)? You're in luck. Hearne Fine Art has just opened the exhibition "Treasure," featuring works by not just Gilliam and Saar but Lawrence Finney, John Biggers, Samella Lewis, Alfred Conteh, Dean Mitchell, Phoebe Beasley, Bisa Butler and others. /more/
  • Delta Exhibition No. 57: Glowing bird-cage, a bodhisattva, a touch of Miro

    July 15, 2015
    George Dombek, who judged this year's "Delta Exhibition," is a celebrated watercolorist known for his neat, linear, objective work. That might explain the preponderance of inkjet images and watercolors in this year's exhibition, which opened last and runs through Sept. 20 in the Townsend Wolfe and Jeannette Rockefeller galleries. /more/
  • Silverpoint shows tonight at Hearne, G. Thompson

    May 14, 2015
    Hearne Fine Art, 1001 Wright Ave., and Greg Thompson Fine Art, 429 Main St., NLR, are hosting the "Progressive Collectors Reception" — meaning you can progress from one to the other — tonight for their joint 2015 National Silverpoint Invitational's “Drawing with Silverpoint." /more/
  • Illustrator Bryan Collier at Hearne Fine Art

    April 21, 2015
    Bryan Collier, an illustrator, three-time Caldecott Medal Winner and six-time Coretta Scott King Award winner, is showing originals and prints of his work at Hearne Fine Art through June 13. Along with the show, "Page Turners," Collier will sign books at 5:30 p.m. April 23 at the gallery, as part of the Arkansas Literary Festival. /more/
  • Silverpoint artist Susan Schwalb at UALR tonight, April 18

    April 16, 2015
    Susan Schwalb, who is credited with a renaissance in silverpoint and who was an inspiration to Arkansas silverpoint artist Marjorie Williams-Smith, will give a talk tonight at 6 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building (Room 161) of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. /more/
  • Hearne on Conteh, Palmer's 'Bitter Medicines and Sweet Poisons'

    December 12, 2014
    Garbo Hearne will lead a gallery tour Saturday and Sunday of the current exhibit at Hearne Fine Art, "Bitter Medicines and Sweet Poisons," assemblages by Alfred Conteh and Charly Palmer. Both are nationally known artists whose works comment on the African-American experience. /more/
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