SAUNDRA “RENEE” SMITH
The bright hues born from a culture tempered in isolation is what makes my authentic work a special tribute to the Gullah people who hold a place wholly unique in American history. With the similitude of Clementine Hunter, I capture the historical prospective of the Gullah people through visual art. Gullah is a language and the culture which evolved from the African slaves brought to the Sea Islands in the 1800's, with a gentle blending of the Indians who inhabited these lands, the Guale. The memories of “de luk pon we islund” is inspired by the isolation maintained to keep a culture intact. Cotton, rice, indigo, basket weaving, colorful dresses, and brightly colored head rags and hats to cover unique nappy hair is what inspires me to create. My self-taught skill, born through pain, has earned me a place among Americas great outsider folk artist. My art is a testament of “grow-in up Gullah” on St. Helena Island South Carolina. I believe my work is spiritual and transforming. Ladies with hats pulled low to cover secrets carried softly on the waters which run so deeply through the veins of the Gullah culture and her people.
My medium ranges from acrylic on canvas or board, to old tin or glass window panes! Each piece strives to captures the natural beauty of the salt marshes, tidal creeks, and palmetto trees in elegant, vivid colors. A peek through the eyes of simplicity and innocence shows what it means to be a part of a unique culture and lifestyle. Ever present is the water, whose spirit sustains us. Our blue roots will be kept alive through the visual and oral education of our next generation.
The inspiration for my art came by way of tragic events that took place in my life during the winter of 2008. The loss of four very dear family members lead me to a dark place, but later to a period of spiritual awakening, and eventually to a trans-formative rebirth drawn from bright colors on white canvas. My husband Michael encouraged my innate gift of painting during those difficult days, and to him I will be eternally grateful for becoming an active part of the Gullah Geechee cultural heritage corridor.