KRISTIN ABHALTER SMITH


I am a collaborative artist, craftsperson, and designer making exhibitions, installations, costumes, and sets for stage and screen.  I paint, sew, draw, and build.

I am also the founding artistic director of Roman Susan Art, Chicago. 

Artist statement:

Once I learned the skills of production, I began to see stages everywhere, beyond the confines of theatre. An exhibition is the stage I prefer most. Warp-speed immediate connection with material and space. Objects perform and everyone is the audience. The actor; the artist, eclipsed, or mirrored, or vanished — the ultimate trick.

I build inflatable sculptures, wearable art, and site-responsive installations. I am someone who found acceptance in the theatre and security in stagecraft. The objects I make live in an unapologetic awareness of the stage. They are infused with cliché and subtlety, cheap materials and heightened emotions. Spectacle allows the viewer to step into fantasy. Simultaneously comedic and hyper-tragic, my Air Dancer sculptures are animated by wind and are the star performers in my visual opera. I care more about an experienced encounter with an art object than a static image. The presence and motion of the Air Dancer inevitably carries thoughts to a new place.

Stagecraft traditions require the engineering of an encounter, technical relationships with materials, and dedication to the fulfillment of meaning through spectacle. I costume muses in pursuit of meaningful connection. I revel in the spirit of functional garments and the body as canvas on a public stage. The space where the body meets the performative object is endlessly captivating. I seek to illuminate these interactions. I measure success based on sincere expressions of connectivity. I think creativity is about seeking and I seek resonance with joy.

Channeling these aspirations, I work from the perspective that I AM the Air Dancer and I express this joyful behavior in order to disguise the anxiety I experience as I strive to become a more balanced version of myself. I am amused by this play within a play — troubled by my connection to this shape, a wobbly hateful body, symbol of the pratfalls of humanity, emblematic of corporate greed and exploitation of labor, surrogate salesperson for used cars and cell-phones, lodestars of contemporary designed obsolescence. I embrace this flawed character, seeking the distorted magic it creates — mesmerizing, distracting, meditative, and solidly in-the-moment of now.