Painter turns to canvas during tragedy

Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2001

Artistic creation can be relaxing, stimulating or even therapeutic. Kellie Smith of Sterling realized the therapeutic nature of art by using painting as a way to express her emotions after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Smith is taking a watercolor painting class and used her art to deal with what she was feeling and seeing in the news.

"Our assignment for class was to do a miniature," Smith said. "Normally, I'd paint flowers and birdhouses and that sort of thing. Then the attack happened and I just couldn't concentrate on the normal things, I had to do something different. It seemed like a lot of the images from TV and the paper were in my mind and I had to paint them. And after I did I could get back to flowers and birdhouses."

Smith painted a miniature watercolor titled "Battered But Not Broken." The picture depicts the World Trade Center towers in New York with smoke and fire billowing from them. In the foreground there is a singed and smoking American flag and a rose bush covered with thorns and hips.

The images of the Twin Towers and the flag came from TV, and their shapes and sizes came from the newspaper pictures that came out while she was working on the painting, Smith said.

"I wanted to do a memorial for the people who died and thought about flowers, but that didn't seem appropriate with them in bloom," Smith said. "The rose bush with hips seemed more appropriate."

The painting is full of symbolism, especially the rose bush.

"The thorns -- if you get them in your skin they hurt until taken out," Smith said. "Compared to terrorism -- until it's taken care of it will be a problem. The hips apply in that the shape is the same as a tear drop and also drops of blood, with the drop shape and red color. So it seemed appropriate."

The flag also was symbolic. Smith saw an image of a flag on television that had been singed and had holes torn in it from shrapnel. The flag in her painting symbolizes America after the attacks -- torn and battered but still whole.

The inspiration for the title of Smith's painting came from President Bush's first speech about the attacks where he said, in effect, that the country was battered but not defeated and that there is hope, she said.

"Like with the rose bush," Smith said. "In the spring it will bloom again. And I think the same thing is true of the New York area and the Pentagon and, Lord willing, the United States as a whole."

Doing the painting was an emotional release for her, Smith said. After it was finished, her thoughts returned to more routine diversions.

"I've done a couple of other paintings that were important personally and emotionally to me, but this is the first painting where I just had to do it," Smith said. "It was an emotional thing for me, sort of therapeutic. During those days I just couldn't concentrate on anything else anyway, so it kind of helps to work through the emotion. They (the images) don't seem to be plaguing me as much as they were."

Smith and her husband moved to Sterling two years ago from Oregon. She is taking her second watercolor art class from artist Cindy Brabec-King in Kasilof.

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