WIND IN HER SAILS 


Hearing an 11-year-old give his interpretation of an impressionistic painting is an enlightening experience. That the painting was done by his mother, Mount Dora artist Regina Smith, makes it all the more interesting – as is watching the two of them work together to set up an exhibit in an alcove of the Orlando Museum of Art called The Founders Gallery, readying for Smith's turn as "Florida Artist of the Month."

"It reminds me of a forest fire," Jager explains, motioning toward an exploding fireball of orange and yellow colors on the left side of the painting that consumes the pastoral green fusion rolling to the other side of the canvas. I see it. He's equally matter-of-fact and confident about sharing his opinions of his mom's other creations, though always careful not to overtalk it.

Jager is not your average kid when it comes to artistic instincts; his father, after all, is Robin Van Arsdol – RV – Orlando's electrifying graffiti artist. RV and Smith were scene-makers in sleepy Orlando back in the day, when they were fresh from a wild walk in New York during the reigning years of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. The two are no longer a couple, but their lively parties at the warehouse on Philadelphia Avenue (in the erstwhile Alden Arts District) remain a fond memory.

"Jager's father and I always promoted local music and art. We knew every artist in town," Smith says.

It's hard for even Smith to believe it was 25 years ago that she was instrumental in building the edgy Art After Dark series (which morphed into "1st Thursdays") at OMA, drawing in the likes of Keith "Scramble" Campbell and other pop-infected artists who were sprouting locally. During those days, she was making body jewelry, most strikingly pieces of intricately crafted metal breast armor for women. (Yes, there was a time when Orlando Museum of Art programs were edgy, and sometimes even erotic.) Smith welcomes this return to the museum to showcase her current art, which reflects a more maternal wellspring – albeit still a free-spirited one.

Colorful, folk-inspired paintings are part of what Smith will display. Those who are familiar with the unofficial collective she's aligned with – Scramble Campbell, Tony Garan, Morgan Steele, Carl Knickerbocker – will see influences of all of them in her works. There's a blue-washed abstract painted during a live music performance, as inspired by Campbell's fearless spontaneity. Intricate flourishes fill two small companion pieces, recalling the distinctive graphic embellishments of Steele. And the sensibilities of Garan, who Smith refers to as "Garbo," can be seen in her childishly simple but warped capture of a butterfly in bold colors.

And "dream ship" icons – which obviously reference RV and his defining use of iconography – reappear throughout her paintings. She says the dream ships represent her desire to just sail away. (What mother doesn't have that fantasy?)

Far more intriguing than her paintings, though, are her mobiles and jewelry, fashioned from found glass pieces wrapped in wire – different shapes and colors coming together as one. This is where Smith's own sensibilities shine.

Jager not only knows his mother's art, he's a part of creating it, along with his 6-year-old twin sisters, Erin and Elyssa. Smith, 46 – a statuesque blonde with light in her eyes and determination in her heart – surely has her hands full with her home brood, which also includes her mother (who was the house manager for the town's esteemed IceHouse Theatre when Smith was growing up). They all live in Mount Dora, where Smith grew up – but she's among the few who claim Kissimmee as her birthplace. Making art is a family way of life, and with her house bursting at the seams with evidence of creativity, Smith is eager to move into her newly found studio space in downtown Mount Dora.

"I have a place where I dig for glass – the Mount Dora dump, where they're getting ready to build a Wal-Mart," says Smith. "We all bring a bucket and look for glass all day." Then the pieces of glass go into a rock tumbler to polish them up.

"People really love the mobiles," she says. "They love the movement and the color and the sound."

Smith says her artistic talent was latent until she met RV. "I said, 'I want to wrap glass. How am I going to learn?' And he said, 'Just do it.' And I did. And now nobody can tell me 'no' to anything."

Regina Smith
1-3 pm Sunday, June 12
Orlando Museum of Art

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