ALEXANDRIA SMITH | Try a Little Tenderness
curated by Nicole J. Caruth

JANUARY 14 – MARCH 25, 2017                                                                      Back to Exhibitions

Alexandria Smith explores the transformative girlhood experiences that shape the women we become as she illuminates the complexities of Black identity. Try a Little Tenderness presents Smith’s new and recent paintings in which she obsessively deconstructs images of the female body. Legs, hands, and pigtails, for instance, become characters and landscapes—a topography of the artist’s psyche. Although her abstract tableaux have been interpreted as performances or aftermaths of violence, they actually represent bodies in flux: not-quite-adolescent girls beginning to develop senses of themselves as independent from the environments they inhabit. Collectively, they tell a mythical coming-of-age story that centers on the mental and emotional processes of self-discovery.

Ms. Smith is the first recipient of the Wanda D. Ewing Commission. The annual initiative supports the production and presentation of new work by a woman artist of the African diaspora.

Comin' on in Waves  , 2015. Oil on panel

Comin' on in Waves, 2015. Oil on panel


Alexandria Smith (b. 1981, Bronx, NY) earned her BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University, MA in Art Education from New York University, and MFA in Painting and Drawing from Parsons The New School for Design in 2010. Smith is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies including, most recently, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Virginia A. Myers Fellowship at the University of Iowa, A.I.R. Gallery Fellowship, the Fountainhead Residency and the Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship for 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Her recent exhibitions in New York include a solo exhibit at Scaramouche Gallery, group exhibitions at The Schomburg Center, Thierry Goldberg Gallery and Rush Arts Gallery. Recently, she has been featured in the Huffington Post articles: “Alexandria Smith's Adorably Grotesque Cartoons Explore What Little Girls Are Made Of”, “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Artmakers You Should Know Under 40” and “10 Female Artists To Watch in 2013”.

Born in Bronx, New York and currently residing in Brooklyn, Alexandria Smith’s art incorporates her coming-of-age experience with that of cultural phenomena and commentary. Her style features hand painting and collage that immerses subjects in a color-filled narrative. A multidisciplinary artist, Smith draws from memory, history, and autobiography for her complex retelling of girlhood and Black identity. Utilizing the perspective of an adolescent, one who is no longer a child but not quite an adult, Smith illustrates her understanding of dynamic emotion, bodily change, and self-discovery, converging the experiences into an aesthetic that mirrors disorienting life traumas.

Photos by Dana Damewood

Wanda D. Ewing Commission

The annual Wanda D. Ewing Commission supports the production and presentation of new work by a woman artist of the African diaspora. Wanda Denise Ewing (1970–2013), the Omahan artist for whom this gallery is named, was influenced by folk-art aesthetics, craft traditions, and the limited of depictions of Black women in Western art history and popular culture. Through her art, she celebrated Black bodies and explored the complex interplay of race, gender, and sexuality. The commission was established to carry forth Ewing’s legacy and to create a vital cultural opportunity for Greater Omaha, where narratives of Black female experience are too often absent from the arts discourse.

Generously sponsored by the Nebraska Arts Council, Nebraska Cultural Endowment, and Paul & Annette Smith.