APRIL 4, 2018
For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve used drawing and painting to share my obsessions. What has obsessed me the most over the years is how a toxic environment can trigger both voluntary and involuntary mutations. Growing up surrounded by industrial pollution, I became fascinated by the possibilities of genetic mutation – how the waste products of human progress gone awry can rewrite our DNA in horrific and hilarious ways.
So, too, does social pollution trigger us to adapt in bizarre ways, voluntarily and involuntarily reshaping our our mannerisms, our dialects, and our styles of dress in order to either stand out or blend in with our surroundings.
My work is an examination of identities: who we are, how we see ourselves, how others see us, and how we wish to be seen.
In life, our true colors can get washed out into the background while our supporters and detractors both cast their lights on us, simultaneously illuminating and obscuring the selves we work so hard to create. In my paintings, key hues from the character’s flesh and attire form the background, while tinted lights from opposing sides give us a tainted hint of each character’s appearance. I have gone out of my way to leave the background visible between the highlights as a window to each character’s true or chosen self, while the highlights themselves are rendered loosely in oils, to effectively communicate the incompleteness of anyone’s true self and the conflict between our visions of ourselves and the visions cast upon us by others.
Born in Bayonne, NJ in 1979, Justin Smith began drawing and painting before he can even remember. From early on, the pollution of his hometown’s industrial landscape, coupled with his love for science fiction films and superhero comics, sparked a lifelong fascination with the havoc man has wreaked upon the environment and what kind of repercussions it may have on our bodies and minds.
As a Media Arts major at New Jersey City University, he combined his many artistic skills and interests into a body of work that was both highly experimental and easily accessible, displaying his unique perspective in every film, painting, cartoon and soundscape he produced. Meanwhile, he began carving out a reputation as a formidable promotional artist for the underground rock and metal scene, creating memorable posters, t-shirts, and CD covers for bands such as Clutch, Negative Reaction, Atomic Number 76, and Abraham’s Meat Plow.
Upon graduating from NJCU, he quickly put his skills to use as a freelance storyboard artist and production designer whose clients have come to include MSNBC, Charles Schwab, and Mighty Coconut.
After moving to East Hampton, NY in 2005, Smith joined the Bonac Tonic Art Collective and participated in all their events from 2006 to 2012. It was during this time that Smith’s true artistic voice began to emerge via “The Mutonians,” a series of portraits depicting biomechanical hodgepodges and cryptozoological anomalies that spring forth when Smith’s imagination runs loose. It didn’t take long for these unusual pieces to find homes in some highly esteemed collections throughout the Northeastern United States.
Since relocating to Austin, Texas in 2013, Smith has once again kept busy as an illustrator and storyboard artist, while gearing up to start fresh with a new series of paintings highlighting the continuing saga of The Mutonians.