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The Smiths: Keeping art in the neighbourhood

One of the works in the Smiths' family show

Like father, like sons - at least when it comes to artistic genes in the Smith family, and on Friday Edwin Smith and his sons Stefan, 15, and Micrae, 13, will open their second multimedia exhibition in the Edinburgh Gallery at City Hall.

While each of them has chosen a different medium, their work is based upon a common theme, from which the show takes its title: Cow Pass. If that name seems unfamiliar, it is because the area is commonly known today as Khyber Pass, which is where the Smith family lives.

In selecting their neighbourhood as the focus of their show, they decided to research the name in the “Bermuda Atlas and Gazeteer”, by Daniel Blagg.

In it, they discovered that Khyber Pass Road was “carved from the path of a former hillside trail, historically called Cow Pass (and) the ravine takes its name from a storied Indian namesake, the 309-mile Afghanistani mountain pass romanticised by the Victorian author, Rudyard Kipling”.

In preparing for their exhibition, the Smith trio spent a great deal of time traversing the Khyber Pass area in search of interesting subject matter.

“Khyber Pass, although slowly changing with the times, is an old residential and commercial neighbourhood of hard-working, middle class people,” Mr. Smith says. “Through the process of walking up and down the ‘ravine' and collecting information, we met people we did not know before. They eagerly shared with us amazing stories and information that enriched the idea, the landmarks, and all of the images that we had collected.”

While each has used photography to some extent in his work, it is only Stefan who has used the camera exclusively. Mr. Smith has worked in acrylics and shaped canvas, while Micrae has combined hand-made paper with superimposed images.

“Each of us has manipulated photographs and used them in various ways to provide narrative, and also to add a rough beauty to our compositions,” Mr. Smith says. “Viewers will find two-dimensional images of ordinary objects, figures and themes, all related by Khyber Pass,” Mr. Smith says.

“We believe inspiration can come from anywhere, and have enjoyed using our own neighbourhood as a source of inspiration for this body of work.”

Influenced by his father, who is a senior lecturer in art and design in the Division of Liberal Arts at Bermuda College, and has also taught photography, Stefan says his favourite subjects are animals and natural scenes, and particularly those images which do not bear the imprint of man.

The teenager captured his photographs during his summer break from studies at the Bermuda Institute, and he says that some of them took quite a bit of scouting around in order to find just the right vantage point.

Following his father's principle of “first concept, then reality,” Stefan says he is generally pleased with the images he got.

“When I look through the lens I imagine it is my final picture, but even so there are some that I like a lot more than others, and that is the narrowing process, but I am happy with my selection for the exhibition,” he says.

As much as he enjoys photography as a hobby, and will continue to do so, the teenager eventually plans to become a marine biologist. Another of his hobbies is building and driving remote control cars.

Younger brother Micrae first became interested in paper making at the suggestion of his father. From early beginnings he has progressed to experimenting with different ingredients, such as pawpaw leaves and onion skins, to produce different textures.

When the blended and very liquid ingredients are poured onto a screen the resultant paper more or less forms itself, but not always correctly, so the process requires patience and a willingness to keep repouring, if necessary, to get it right - a challenge which Micrae enjoys.

Photographs of “ordinary people” from Khyber Pass have been processed into his computer and then printed onto his handmade paper. He will exhibit handmade paper with and without images. In addition to this hobby, Micrae also enjoys assembling robotic kits.

“I like building things, and making things that I can use,” the Bermuda Institute student says.

As for Smith p?re, he is well known on the local art scene. A regular exhibitior in Bermuda Society of Arts member shows, he has also had solo exhibitions in its Edinburgh Gallery in 1995 and 2000. In the same gallery, in 1997 he held a joint exhibition with Calvin McNorton, and two years later participated in his first joint exhibition with his sons. This year, Mr. Smith's laser print, charcoal on masonite, entitled ‘Khyber Pass Halt', was included in the Bacardi Biennial Exhibition at the Bermuda National Gallery.

Mr. Smith received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Savannah College of Art and Design, and his Master of Arts (Teaching) from Andrews University. He also studied at the former West Indies College, now known as the Northern Caribbean University.

An opening reception for ‘Cow Pass' takes place in the Edinburgh Gallery on Monday, September 23 from 5 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. The exhibition may be viewed from September 20, and it will continue through October 4.