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Leslie Plato Smith

Fairlane Drive
Oakland, CA 94611, U.S.A.
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Phone: 415-218-0590

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 Artist Statement


Kelp, suspended in the green-gray water of California’s salty, frothy and ever moving ocean, smells of natural oil resin in its spray. It is our coral reef of other oceans. Teeming with life so close to shore, it wraps around you if you venture in; on shore its polyps are so good to pop. Waves, refreshingly cold, rhythmically slapping the sand, beach the kelp. By hanging my sculpture series Beached Kelp, it represents those days suspended in water, creating the beautiful, fragile ecosystems of our coast. But my assemblages go further and explore the life cycle of our smelly sea vine, including its dying, death and fossilization as it lies in the sun for days, disintegrating on the sand.

Working in series of ceramic assemblages that explore transformations in our environment and many other aspects of the world in which we and all life exists, including biological, social, political, economic systems across time and space. I like to stay up to date on the latest advances in science and technology and then abstract these evolutionary changes to incorporate them into my art. I am currently fascinated with the idea that hunger seems to have driven the development of the brain over 650 million years ago, since today hunger drives so many decisions and reactions of both people and their organizations. With a background in anthropology, I am aware of the need for a society to move its social structures and institutions in harmony with science and technology or face major disconnects and disruptions as the values clash and the different factions annihilate each other.

Envision walking in the hot, humid, impenetrable jungle and suddenly coming upon an oversized, nonparasitic, hanging plant, mutated by the extra heat generated by global warming. The sudden splash of color and exotic beauty invokes a gut response from the viewer; both fear and wonder, what will our future be in this rapidly changing world?

Working quickly, folding and stretching the clay to its limits brings a rounded, fullness to the forms and a sense of life, spontaneity, and vulnerability to the sculpture. Interested in movement and energy, I frequently rip and tear the clay, to mimic the forces all life encounters daily. Pressing underglazes into the wet clay, dripping extra color, and poking, and scarring the clay increase the vitality of the expression. A one-step, cone 10, oxidation firing process is used with the goal of random and inconsistent fluxing of the underglazes. In my installations, light and 2-D representations extend the boundaries of my clay-based sculptures to better create the environments being explored.

A bed of white kelp is suspended in the surreal greenish water of the Arctic Ocean with light penetrating through the polar ice cap, bringing plant life to an environs usually void of all flora. Is it an evolutionary adaptation to global warming or just a frozen relic drifting in from southern waters? Humanity is changing the world’s ecosystems at a previously unknown velocity. Art reflects our values, thoughts, emotions, and intelligence. I want my art to be relevant, to make an impact, to stimulate.



 Having spent much of her career as Associate Vice-Chancellor of Governmental Relations for City College of San Francisco, her work is never far from bringing the political into the art world; bringing the obligation of being human into the conversation. Educated at UC Santa Barbara, Tulane, and UC Berkeley, she has received a national award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the National Association of State University and Land-Grant Colleges, the American Association of State College and Universities, and the American Association of Community Colleges for effort, initiative, and innovation in bringing together 60 different art departments to make 125 life size statues to visually show how budget cuts are negatively impacting our students and to fight for public education. This was followed by a series of 90 life size soft sculptures demonstrating how community colleges change lives for the better.

 Drawing from the latest advances in science and technology, her abstract, organic ceramic sculpture assemblages have been featured in Ceramics Monthly, the Crocker-Kingsley, auctioned at the Crocker Art Museum, received an Award of Excellence from the ACCI Gallery in Berkeley, and exhibited at many locations including a solo show at Roscoe Ceramic Gallery, the Richmond Art Center, City College Art Gallery, Ceramics Annual of America, the Autumn Festival of Lights, Lorton Workhouse Clay National, and Thompson Art Gallery.

A background in archeology shaped her world view, bringing a sense of universality, cultural diversity, and timelessness to her pieces. She prefers to initially invoke a gut response from the viewer--something that comes from deep inside the primitive part of the brain--followed by a refined, analytical assessment.





CCSF, Art Portfolio



Laney College, Drawing, Painting, Figure Sculpture, Color Theory



Laney College, Ceramic Sculpture



Workshop, Monumental Public Art, John Toki



University of California, Berkeley, MBA



Tulane University, Ph.D. Program, Anthropology



University of California, Santa Barbara, B.A. cum laud, pre-Columbian culture of the new world. Art History and Studio Art




Professional Experience



City College of San Francisco

Associate Vice-Chancellor of Governmental Relations, Dean, Faculty







Award of Merit, National Juried Show, ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA



Ceramics Monthly, Undergraduate Showcase winner, September 2008.



Edwin Crawford Award for Innovation, National Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the National Association of State University and Land-Grant Colleges, the American Association of State College and Universities, and the American Association of Community Colleges for individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the advancement, quality, and effectiveness of state relations on behalf of higher education institute or system.



NDFL national fellowship in Latin American Studies, Tulane University






Flight and Float Series, Roscoe Ceramic Gallery, Oakland, CA







Family Portraits, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA. Jurors: Jan Wurm and Ric Ambrose



Hatch, City College Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA



Autumn Festival of the Lights, Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA



Members Show, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA



Members Show, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA



Members Show, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA



Ceramics Annual of America, Civic Center, San Francisco, CA



Ceramics Annual of America, Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA



Members Show, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA



Small Works Show, Roscoe Ceramics Gallery, Oakland, CA



Ceramics Annual of America, Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA



 Ceramics Annual of America, Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA