WELCOME TO THE VIRTUAL TOUR
MEET THE ARTIST
CHRISTINE LEE SMITH
Christine Lee Smith is an award winning portrait photographer in Southern California. Smith received her MFA in 2020 from Azusa Pacific University. Smith’s research interests lie in photography’s relationship to embodiment and identity, and she has presented original papers on photography’s relationship to gender, as well as photography’s relationship to death, at CIVA biennials in 2019 and 2021. Smith received honorable mention in the 17th Julia Margaret Cameron award, and was a finalist in the Taylor Wessing National Portrait Gallery award in 2019. Her work has appeared in the Duncan Miller Gallery, Gallery 825, and the Museum of Latin American Art. Her work can be viewed on Instagram @christineleesmithphoto.
In the summer of 2021 I took up swimming. After surviving more than a year of the pandemic largely indoors, I was searching for a way to ground myself while moving my body in ways that did not shock it into awakening. As I entered the cool pool waters in June, I instantly felt they were giving me the breathing room I needed and didn’t know how to ask for.
As I swam several days each week I noticed the early summer clouds of Southern California that shadowed the water. I was captivated by their shapeless movement; as I swam on my back they followed my form. They refused to be contained, always becoming more themselves. A couple weeks in, after getting swim goggles, I noticed for the first time how the shadows of my distorted form played in the water. My shadow refused to be contained. My shape was as amorphous as the clouds above. They danced together.
The next day I brought my waterproof phone, which had promised to be sutbmergible for 10’ up to 15-minutes (it lied), to begin taking photos. First of the sky, then in the water. It was infinitely fascinating to watch my form move without my moving it, to be carried by the water. After a few days of this, and a new phone later, my actual underwater camera witnessed me spin and twirl and expand like a starfish in the deep end of the water. It was pure play.
Something ancient surfaced within me as I moved in the water, watching my own movement reflected back to me. I remembered later how the creation poem tells us the water came first; it was the palette for all existence. This mysterious liminal space of deep water is at the core of who we are as humans, which our biology has confirmed is more than a metaphor. We are air and water. It is good.
The waters were good before we even were. Our form followed goodness. It is goodness inherent within us now. We navigate life, caught between water and sky, moving from mostly water into mostly air. The 20 photographs in this book are a conversation within this liminal space we collectively inhabit. The photograph compositions play with a creation story of their own, and viewers may notice parallels between the shadowy silhouette and the billowy sky.
May we not get caught on the form of our physical shape, but embrace the dance of physicality as we encounter what we are all becoming. Let us learn to fall into the sky as a cloud.