Sarah Smelser | LUX Center for the Arts | Art Gallery, Classes, Summer Camps & Outreach

Sarah Smelser

Sarah Smelser

Profile Location
Normal , IL

Sarah Smelser received her BA from University of California at Santa Cruz, her MA and MFA from the University of Iowa. She has been an artist in residence at Vermont Studio Center; Franz Masereel Center, Artica Bilbao, Kala Art Institute, Jentel Artist Residency, Skopelos Foundation for the Arts, Anchor Graphics, Ballinglen Arts Foundation, and Tamarind Institute. Her work is in such collections as Readers' Digest Association, New York Public Library, Library of Congress, Hallmark Corporate Collection, and Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts.

Smelser has had solo exhibitions at Bridgewater/Lustberg & Blumenfeld in New York City, Kathryn Markel Fine Arts in New York City, Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, MI, Carnegie Mellon University, Bradley University, University of Wyoming, Diablo Valley College, Luther College and Spencer College. Her work has been included in many invitational and juried shows, and been shown at numerous art fairs including Art Frankfurt, Estampa (in Madrid), the Affordable Art Fair in New York, Art Miami, Red Dot Art Fair in New York and Miami, Art Santa Fe, Art Chicago, EDITION Chicago, Boston Print Fair, Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair, Editions/Artists’ Book Fair, and the Los Angeles Art Show. 

Smelser's work has been reviewed in Art on Paper: The Journal of Prints, Drawings and Photography, Abstract Art Online, Monotype, Monoprint, & Strappo Ezine and reproduced in New American Paintings.

Smelser is a Professor, the Associate Director of the School of Art at Illinois State University, and a co-founder of Manneken Press with husband Master Printer Jonathan Higgins. Manneken Press is a fine art print publishing venture, currently thriving in Bloomington, IL, publishing the work of artists from around the United States and Colombia. From 2006 to 2008 Smelser acted as President of the Mid America Print Council, a national non-profit organization of artist printmakers and educators.



Artist Statement

My latest work uses memory, impression, and my experiences as a traveler to cobble together an invented, non-traditional landscape. I divide and organize space, as a farmer or a quilter might, to explore pattern as well as experiment with density, dynamism, and emptiness.


I am a reluctant transplant from Northern California to Central Illinois, via Wisconsin, Southern California, and West Virginia. Feeling “at home” has become a warped and relative experience. At the same time, I enjoy being a foreigner as I leave my yellow clapboard house in Bloomington, IL to work in New York, Vermont, Wyoming, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Ireland, and my hometown of Berkeley, visiting many other places in between.


I pay close attention to transitions, such as land to water, country to city, soil to cliff, or avenue to highway. The imagery I make is a kind of journal but also evidence of an interior conversation. It is an effort to tread a line between elegant and awkward, deliberate and intuitive, skilled and naïve. The palette, activity, and composition of each work are generated by an urgent curiosity and are sustained by the excitement of discovery in the studio.


Exhibitions Featuring this Artist

Jim Aden
Liana Agnew
Joel Anderson
Mark Arnold
Michael Ashley
Posey Bacopoulos
Shawn Teseo Ballarin
Green Bee
Jessica Brandl
Wes Brown
Matt Bukrey
Larry Buller
Donna Burdic
Anne Burton
Elaine Buss
Jen Carlson
Neil Celani
Austin Coudriet
Drew Curtright
Lindsey Day
Amanda Durig
Adrienne Eliades
Paul Eshelman
Katelyn Farneth
Lynette Fast
Anna Gadek
PJ Hargraves
Mark Hargraves
Sarah Jentsch
Kyle Johns
G.V. Kelley
Josh Knutson
Mary Koziol
Brad Krieger
Louis LaBudda
Lynn Latta
Clay Leonard
Sam Loeffler
Carol Long
Anika Major
Susan McGilvrey
Tom Meyers
Catie Miller
Katie Nieland
Kyle Nobles
Samantha Oliver
Sarah Olsen
Cathy Patterson
Christy Puetz
Brittany Rea
Sarah Rowe
Sophia Ruppert
Erin Ryan
Agnes Seebass
Sarah Shoot
José Sierra
Sarah Smelser
Shannon Smith
Maria Spiess
Susan Stark-Johnson
Evan Stoler
Patty Talbert
Harry Tompkin
Tara Tonsor
April White
Tara Dawley
11/6/20 to 12/30/20
Multiple Mediums
Sarah Smelser
3/5/21 to 3/26/21
Multiple Mediums

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