nancy train smith
I was educated at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, graduating with a BA in Art History in 1968, and at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. At the SMFA I completed the four-year diploma program in 1977, and the fifth-year competition in 1978. As one of several winners of the competition, I was granted a traveling fellowship and participation in a show in 1978 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

My first involvement with installation art was while I was still at school. A group of fellow students and I presented work in a parking garage in downtown Boston. The idea was to show art in a non-art context opening the work to viewers who might not go to a museum or gallery. In 1976, I also developed a multi-site project for the first First Night in Boston, MA. In 1980, I used my traveling fellowship to travel to the American West to see the site works by Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, Michael Heizer, and Walter De Maria. On that trip I had the good fortune to spend two days alone at the Lightening Field before it had opened to the public.

Later that same year, I began work in ceramics at the Clay Dragon Studio in Cambridge, MA where I met fellow artist, Anne Smith. Anne and I left Clay Dragon shortly afterward and started our own studio where we worked for the next eight years. My work in clay during the 1980s was entirely figurative beginning with a long series of self-portraits delving into the various faces of womanhood. In 1988, I was invited by Arnie Zimmerman to accompany him and other artists to Lisbon, Portugal to work at the Centro de Arte e Communicacao.

In 1991, I moved to Dartmouth, MA to live with and eventually marry ceramic artist, Chris Gustin. With this change in circumstance, I re-evaluated my studio practice, and decided to go back to my first love, oil painting. The landscape of South Dartmouth was spectacular, and I wanted to address it in my work and did not see a way to do that with clay.

From about 1994 to 2005, I engaged in an intensive study, through painting, of the landscape of the estuarine south coast. Often crawling through the underbrush with my camera, I sought to capture the feeling of being “in” the landscape rather than looking “at” it.

At the approach of my 59th birthday, I went into what I later called “the tunnel,” and remained there until I turned 61. It was a time of self-doubt and exploration of alternative paths, paths not taken. When I emerged from the tunnel, it was with new vigor and new commitment to my life as an artist. An unexpected opportunity to make a large scale landscape installation was the perfect way to reconnect, resulting in “Migration”, an installation of 130 terracotta fish “swimming” in a field on the Slocum River Reserve in South Dartmouth, MA.

Migration went on to actually migrate, and also to evolve, showing at such diverse places as the Jersey Shore, the coast of Chile, and the Fuller Craft Museum. During the course of the project, I began to make the fish with stoneware and porcelain and to fire them in wood-fire kilns, both in Dartmouth at Chris Gustin’s anagama and in Florida at St. Pete’s Clay (Morean Arts Center). Ultimately, the last iteration of the project was permanently installed on a roof at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA. In 2012 I participated in the 25th anniversary celebration at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts with an installation of Migration, a panel discussion of site specific art, and a two week residency. Work that I began there has continued both in my own studio and at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana where I was a visiting artist in August 2014.

From 2013 to 2015 I worked mostly in my painting studio preparing for a show in July 2015 at the Dedee Shattuck Gallery in Westport, MA.