By Gussie Fauntleroy
Linda Kyser Smith finds endless fascination in portraying the inner thoughts and outer charms of women
JOIE DE VIVRE
A haughty, beautiful woman, chin tilted ever so slightly upward, long black silk opera gloves worn with utter self-confidence—she inspires a range of responses, from envy to indifference. But to painter Linda Kyser Smith, she is a perfect model.
“I love drama and I like haughty women. It’s like, hey, you’re strong, you can be haughty,” the artist laughs, her own sense of confidence infused with warmth and humor and not a trace of snobbery. “I love to pose models in ways that are whimsical, somewhat dramatic, and fun—something that makes people smile when they look at the painting. I try to bring out the vast array of charms in women, from the pensive to the piquant.”
Often the women in Kyser Smith’s art are portrayed in relaxed settings—a café, bistro, or lounging on a cushy couch—either with friends or alone. They may be raising a glass and laughing, deep in thought, or furtively stealing a glance at someone of interest across the room. This is a world where high style meets casual ease, where inner grace, impishness, or a hint of vulnerability reveals itself in faces, gestures, and body language.
Kyser Smith has been creating award-winning paintings of women, as well as children and portraits of all types, for more than 25 years. Her work has earned the National Arts Club’s Visual Arts Award, the National Portrait Society’s Special Recognition Award, and a Gold Medal for Oil at the Knickerbocker Artists’ 45th Grand International Classic, among others. With an international following, her paintings are in the collections of celebrities Whoopi Goldberg, Carol Burnett, and Sir Anthony Hopkins—who purchased a piece depicting a “really pretty young blonde,” the artist reveals with a smile. Kyser Smith’s art is also in the permanent collections of a number of museums, including the Musée de la Grande Vigne in Dinan, France, and the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame in Ft. Worth, TX.
WAITIN AND WATCHIN
The painter has lived in New Mexico for the past 20 years, first in Ruidoso—where she went for a workshop and met her husband, architect and artist David Smith—and now Santa Fe. But Texas was her first home, and the Lone Star State still lingers in her voice. Raised in Irving, she was an only child, an experience she believes led her to become a natural observer of people and faces. It also inclined her to remain slightly withheld as an artist, at least until she realized that wasn’t the best approach when painting from life.
“I was taking a class with Bettina Steinke and she said, ‘Linda, you’re very talented, but you need to be 70 percent over there with the model and 30 percent over here at the easel,’” she recalls. “It made me aware I was pulled back. My theory is that an only child has a natural tendency to be a little solitary, even though you want to connect.”
Kyser Smith connected with art early on. She remembers copying Gilbert Stuart’s famous unfinished portrait of George Washington while in grade school and admits it “kind of even looked like him.” Her love of painting women in fine clothes has roots in time spent with her grandmother, a seamstress and clothing designer with whom young Linda stayed every day after school while her parents worked…
Some of the actual dresses and accessories her models wear today were inherited from her grandmother, including a lovely 1920s-era ivory satin gown created for Kyser Smith’s aunt, although for unknown reasons the aunt never wore it. The gown has appeared in a series of works, including TEA AND SATIN, which received an honorable mention from the National Portrait Society…
Featured in March 2008