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Meet the Maker: Day 29

Day 29: Most Difficult Make

This is a prompt I had to think about a little bit. My 50 New York Waterfalls series was definitely my most complex project and the 50 painting series Around the Finger Lakes that I completed the year prior could have qualified also as I was working over full-time at a day job while completing it within the required timeframe.

But the more I thought about it, the more I feel that this piece – Liberty & Justice for All – would be considered my most difficult to create.

This piece is something that morphed out of a drawing I completed several years ago from my Twenty-Nine project. My Twenty-Nine project was something I challenged myself to the year going into my 30th birthday. Each day for 367 days I selected a random prompt and created a small quick piece of art based on the topic.

I wish I had recorded more information at the time of what inspired the drawings. The prompt for that particular day was “Things I Own – journal about where you got things from or why you bought it.” It took looking at the news headlines at the time to jog my memory a little that it was a reaction to the Paris bombings that occurred just a few days before.

Statue of Liberty by Laura Jaen Smith. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door".

After creating the original piece, I knew that I wanted to do something more with the topic. With the current political and social climate over the last few years, I would periodically be brought back to this idea. I didn’t quite feel like I had said all I wanted to say with it. There’s several sketches and started paintings on this theme, but it never felt like I was expressing what I wanted to express in the right way or maybe it just wasn’t the right time.

Fast forward a couple years when I heard of the Suffrage Show (with its focus on themes of suffrage, the fundamental right to vote in public, political elections, the benefits and limits of enfranchisement, civic engagement, and voting rights issues both past and present), I again felt drawn towards completing the piece.

I struggled with finding the right medium – my normal acrylic didn’t feel right. Doing something monotone in pencil or ink didn’t bring the emotion I wanted. Finding reference photos of the bodies in the right positions and giving the right expressions, finding the elements that made Lady Liberty and Lady Justice, and then combining the different pieces to be coherent. When everything came together it just felt like a sigh of relief that I was finally able to get the idea out of me.

Liberty and Justice for All by Laura Jaen Smith. Watercolor and ink drawing of Lady Liberty consoling Lady Justice crying.

🖼 Liberty & Justice for All is available to view right now at the ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes in Corning TONIGHT during the Urban Arts Crawl 5-8pm and through next Friday April 5th. Afterwards it will be coming home to be part of my private collection.

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