Nathaniel Smyth is originally from Spring Valley, Ohio. He received a BFA from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and later relocated to Chicago to complete an MFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He makes things that address the limits of our perceptions and the ways in which we make sense of our surroundings and our lives. He exhibits across the country and occasionally internationally, teaches a variety of art media and topics at the University of Dayton and Sinclair Community College, and spends entirely too much time on his computer.
Smyth’s recent work uses appropriation to examine how our culture imagines its icons. As many as one hundred or more images are processed together mathematically into a single image, a kind of visual survey to uncover our idea of a generic archetype like a football star or a world leader, and to understand how we depict a figure that we’ve never seen. Smyth finds inspiration for his subjects in history, pop culture and the top-twenty lists made ubiquitous by the Internet, and he considers the resulting portraits as much a product of our culture as of his own hand.
These portraits are often printed on aluminum to achieve a luminous quality reminiscent of both the glazing techniques of traditional oil painting and the computer monitors in use today, further emphasizing the source of the images used as raw material. This medium is archival, scratch resistant, waterproof, and highly durable, allowing for an immediacy that is unobtainable with glass and frames.
Nathaniel Smyth has degrees from Wright State University and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He teaches art in Dayton, Ohio, where he and his wife are raising their twin children.
“What links all of Smyth’s work is this conviction that an image is never an end in itself, but an element in a stream of perception, that to see is always to accrete, to layer visual impulses together toward a greater construct, and that visualization and accumulation are inexorably intertwined.”
–Jim Yood, writer for Artforum and Aperture Magazines