I never met H. Lane Smith, (known as Lane), (1924-1999) but in viewing his work at Studio 53 in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, I saw the artist within him. I learned about composition, taking chances on a range of mediums and stories of his life. He taught at RISD for 35 years, and the impact of his works and career still hold strong on many of his past students and alumnae. Gallery owners Terry Seaman and his wife Heidi Seidelhuber, (both artists), celebrate RISD alum each year during the months of June and September in their Maine gallery. This year H. Lane Smith was added to their list with just over 60 pieces.
In circulating the gallery, I was amazed by the variety of mediums in which Lane excelled and created. Rarely signing his completed works, a retrospective of his collection contains pen and inks, watercolors, charcoal, pencil drawings and monoprints. He was also an accomplished letter artist, especially calligraphy. The subjects range from wildlife to landscapes, seascapes, genres, still lifes and nudes. I asked his wife, Joyce (also an artist), what particular medium his always came back to. Her reply was, “Drawings.” Throughout his life, his inspiration came from travels and experiences, hence the variety of subjects and mediums. Sometimes it’s the drawings that create a gateway to other mediums that some artists explore to challenge themselves. The results can be most rewarding. Lane is one of those artists.
In wandering the gallery, the simplicity of two-dimensional works like, ‘Head on a Pedestal’, an oil on canvas, gives a rich blend of old world with a mystery of who is this woman with a mini landscape painting just beyond her? You have to ask yourself, what is the relation? How does present move with the past? Each answer will be different for different viewers, but conjures up the simple meaning of Lane’s composition. A monoprint done in 1972, titled ‘Open Farmland,’ gives us perspective on the fine tuning of color and texture. The mood is somber, but the landscape evokes a genre of simple life that makes you stop and find meaning. ‘Small Fisherman, Big Bench,’ another oil on canvas, depicts not only vivid colors, but their relationship to the viewer on bringing each person to be a part of observing his need to be quiet and just fish. Again, the composition is equal with a few focal points moving your eye around with hints of color blasts that make for a happy and warm painting. I relate to this one.
Lane had many students over the years, and at times when I was in company of his daughter, Jenny, his name came up in conversations with former students. He was well respected not only as a fine professor, but a lover of the arts. His work can be seen at Studio 53, Boothbay Harbor, Maine through October 9.
Studio 53, 53 Townsend Ave, Boothbay Harbor, Maine; 207-633-2755; Studio53FineArt.com; Studio53bbh@aol.com