Michelle Drane Smith
The Art and Heart of a Sculptor: Portraits in Bronze and Fired Clay
VISITOR EXHIBITION GUIDE
These bronzes were either in the Smiths’ home, which was wrenched from its foundation, twisted about 35 feet counter-clockwise with the southeast corner as a pivot and smashed in from the backside, or in Twin Oaks, an enormous assisted-living facility about a block from the water in Pass Christian. It was totally destroyed, with only the eight tall columns left standing and leaning toward the north. Kristina, Maria and Iberville were found among the debris and, incredibly, were not dented, although the patinas suffered from the salt water damage. The ones in our home were in the caustic mud (it ate holes in stainless steel bowls!) for about three weeks before we were allowed back on the site. We found Lisa, Rene’ and Ace on our first trip back, but Ruth was in the mud and house wreckage for over 2 months. The patinas were greatly damaged, but will be restored at some future time. The patina on Iberville was restored and a new base made by Harry Collins (a Master Woodworker) for the Pass Christian Historical Society, which owns the sculpture.
ACE — DR. A.C. SMITH — deceased husband of the artist.
Daughters of the artist
QUEEN OF THE MAY– KRISTINA BRADFORD
BLITHE SPIRIT — RENE’ MATTHEWS
THE BRIDE — MARIA BURKE
THE GODDESS — LISA HILAIRE
RUTH O’NEAL (bronze, in her “school-marm” mode)
PIERRE LeMOYNE, Sieur d’Iberville — French Canadian who discovered the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1699
Katrina led to our seeking “friendly water” elsewhere, so we found a spacious old house in need of much updating and repair work on a wonderful site on Sibley Lake in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Life on Sibley Lake was very peaceful and healing, and Natchitoches has everything we like about a place to live: An interesting small town, a university, friendly people and that big beautiful lake. Not that we were anxious to get a house on the lake, but after about 7 months in our FEMA trailer, when our realtor called to say that she had found a house — the ONLY one for sale on the lake — we bought it with her say-so and seeing a few pictures taken with her cell phone and sent to us via the internet tent on Second Street in the park. We went to Natchitoches on June first, got the insurance on the house, went to the closing and THEN
WENT TO SEE OUR NEW HOME! Somehow it was satisfying to close on our new home on Opening Day of the 2006 Hurricane Season. After nearly a year of serious carpentry (the big jobs we hired out) and painting, renovating the house, I decided that enough was ENOUGH!, and the doors waiting to be finished or refinished were functional and could wait until WHENEVER . . . and picked up the clay and started back to REAL work. The nude torso is the first sculpture I made in Natchitoches. The doors waited for several years!
While living in Natchitoches I was privileged to have two solo exhibitions: The first was in the Hanchey Gallery of Northwestern State University, in February of 2010. The second one was held in the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport that October. Those two events led to my work being archived in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, D.C. Their only requirement to be eligible for archiving of an artist’s work is having at least one solo exhibition in a recognized gallery or a museum.
Time passed; we got older, less healthy and more impaired, and a huge decision had to be made: Sell the house on the beloved lake and move closer to our children and good medical care closer at hand than the fifty-to-sixty miles available in either Shreveport or Alexandria. After convincing Ace that we could no longer manage that huge property and/or the boats, I asked him if he wanted to stay in Natchitoches. He said, “If I can’t live on the lake, no.” I gave Ace a choice of five places: Madisonville, Mandeville, Covington, Abita Springs, and Pass Christian. His quick reply was, “I’d rather live in the Pass.” So here we are, back home again.
OTHER FAMILY SCULPTURES
Ace’s sons and their families (still incomplete as of this date)
PHYLLIS — wife
MICHELLE — daughter
CHERYL — wife
DANIELLE — daughter
STEPHEN — son
Relatives of the artist
LIZ — youngest sister (number 12 of 12 children!)
WANZER — one of the four boys in the family.
REVILL — grandson
STELLA — granddaughter
REILLY — grandson
LOU — son-in-law
JIM — son-in-law
FRIENDS FROM OUR DAYS IN SAN MIGUEL de ALLENDE, MEXICO
OLIVIA — Olivia Cole, Emmy-winning actress as Matilda in “Roots” and a dear friend. She died in January of 2018. Olivia is depicted wearing her favorite hat.
ROS — Rosamond Campbell, an incredibly gifted artist, who died a few years ago. She was nearly 80 at the time that I did her portrait, but she wanted to be portrayed as in her 50’s. There were enough photos for me to do so. The photo shows Ros at 80 holding her portrait at fifty. Fired clay.
RUTH — in fired clay. This fabulous older lady claimed that I did not give her enough wrinkles in the bronze “school marm” one, so I made another one which satisfied her. In about 1930 she was a twenty-year-old schoolteacher fresh out of college in Washington State when she was sent to a rough Yugoslavian mining town in the northeast part of the state. Some of her eighth-grade male students were bigger that she was. She died Sept. of ’04.
PIANO MAJORS AT NSU
FRANKIE DAUGHTERY — Shreveport, Louisiana (now, Tyler, TX) Frankie is the only college student I have ever heard of who sent money home while in college. His father very ill for 3 months and unable to work, so Frankie pitched in at that time.
ARSENTIY KHARITONOV — St. Petersburg, Russia (now, Texas). Arsentiy’s grandfather was killed in the Battle of Kursk in western Russia in July, 1943. He was thrilled that Ace, a serious military history scholar, could discuss the battle and significance of it.
HANNAH KELLY — Appleton, Wisconsin (now, Houston, TX)
PETER KYSELA — Dunajska, Slovakia (now, Prague, Czech Republic). As a five-year-old, Peter stood around the village square with his family and other villagers anxiously watching the Russian tanks, which were waiting for the call from Moscow — either they would attack the village or roll out of their lives. All of the nervous villagers were jingling their keys with great tension. FINALLY the call came, and the tanks turned and began to roll away . . . and all of the exultant villagers threw their keys up in the air.
ALEKSANDRA (SASHA) OGNANOSKA — Split, Croatia; (Skopje, Macedonia, St. Petersburg, Russia and now — Prague, Czech Republic) When Sasha was sixteen her grandmother in St. Petersburg was very ill and needed someone to live with her. To enable her mother to stay in Macedonia with her father, Sasha volunteered to live with her grandmother and see to her care and did so for four years. The grandmother was a survivor of the Siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) as a twelve-year-old. For this reason, she was given a monthly pension by the Russian government until her death.
MINJEONG KIM — Seoul, South Korea
JAEYONG LEE — Seoul, South Korea (now Texas)
FELIPE LEDESMA NUNEZ — Cuenca, Ecuador
PETER PINDJAK — Bratislava, Slovakia
(There was also a portrait of Janka Krajciova, from Bratislava, Slovakia, but it has been sold) These splendid and very talented young people were sort of our “adopted children” while we were in Natchitoches. I was missing my daughters terribly, and they were all homesick, so the solution was obvious — we had them out to our home about once a month for some kind of meal, and they delightedly entertained us with their skills on our piano. Ace was not at all bashful in asking them for “just one more.” They enriched our lives enormously. Many of them had double majors, and the piano scholarship was the means of getting a good education in a chosen field. Hannah’s second major was physics, leading to an engineering degree at Louisiana Tech and then a terrific job at GE in Houston. Frankie’s second major was biology, leading to his becoming a physician’s assistant in pathology, and he is now working at a hospital in Tyler, TX. Peter Kysela had a second major in business. After moving to Prague
he got a master’s degree in business, and became the administrator of a small hospital there. Peter Pindjak had a second major in political science, both at the Scholars College at NSU. In the Scholars College a bachelor’s degree requires the writing of a thesis, which is the usual requirement for a master’s degree in the regular program. He served as an under secretary for the Slovakian Ambassador to the U.N. for four years and is now the assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Bratislava. Sasha has unusually good language skills, got a degree in business in Prague, was hired by a German bank and travels to many cities in Europe on their behalf. Felipe, Arsentiy, Jaeyong, Janka, and MinJeong are all pursuing careers in music.
BILL — Dr. Bill Bryant, former Head of the Art Department at NSU — bronze.
BRUCE — former professor of music (clarinet) at NSU — fired clay.
FRASER — former professor of philosophy in the Scholars College at NSU — fired clay.
GEORGE — Master furniture builder, specializing in objects made of cypress. — fired clay.
HALEY — Bronze.
MAGDA — long-time friend of the artist and native of Krakow, Poland. Her husband was in a German concentration camp for 5 years, surviving both polio and tuberculosis during that time. — fired clay.
MICHELE — youngest namesake of the artist — fired clay.
MEREDITH — sister of Michele — fired clay.
MISS SALLY — former librarian in Pass Christian. She prevented the permanent closing of our library after Katrina, when that was threatened. She made it very clear that the library is the heart of our community and demanded that a shelter of ANY kind be provided temporarily. Fortunately, the powers-that-be listened and acted accordingly. There is a bronze version in the new Pass Christian Library, paid for by the Friends of the Pass Christian Library. The library staff enjoys “dressing up” the statue for special occasions — feather boas, Mardi Gras beads, Christmas caps, etc.
FRANCESCA — dear friend — fired clay.
NUDE TORSO — bronze.
MY LEFT HAND — bronze.
JUDY — as Aurora, Goddess of the Dawn. Bronze.
JOHN — fired clay.
ALEXEI — Dr. Alexei Muravitsky, math professor at the Scholars College of NSU — fired clay.
SATCHMO — Louis Armstrong, one of the world’s most beloved musicians.
APRIL wall hanging — NFS — namesake and collection of the artist (mishap in the kiln)
Rangel Brothers, Mexico; Ludwig Foundry, Deford at NSU, and Avant Foundry –USA.
Special bases were made by Harry Collins, a Master Woodworker in Pass Christian.