Meet Polsky Member of the Month: Yvette Kaiser Smith
UChicago alum and Polsky member, Yvette Kaiser Smith, MFA ’94, joined the Exchange in May of 2016. Kaiser Smith is an artist, who makes “wall-based geometric abstractions.” She invents systems to visualize the values of numbers, such as sequences for pi and e, through grids and repetitions of geometric shapes. “Numbers are the direct source of abstraction,” she says.
Kaiser Smith’s journey with Polsky stemmed from her participation in the Hyde Park Art Center’s Center Program, which gives artists access to the Polsky Center’s Fab Lab. “I initially joined out of curiosity and because it would have been silly not to take advantage of an invitation to a world completely unfamiliar to my studio practice,” Kaiser Smith says. “I wanted to at least go through Fab Lab 101, an introduction to available machines.” Already a pro in HPAC’s printmaking lab, using the Polsky Center’s Fab Lab’s laser-cutter came naturally. It also started a “new obsession” for Kaiser Smith. She transitioned from predominantly using crocheted fiberglass to using laser-cut acrylic sheets in her art. “Combining language of numerical values with language of laser-cut acrylic, still in its infancy as exploration, promises new challenges and many more possibilities,” she says.
With three math-mapping systems available, Kaiser Smith feels that “the work is now pushing me to make my hand more visible by adding a non-acrylic element to all acrylic assemblages.” The Polsky Center and its Fab Lab have helped Kaiser Smith in her new pursuit, prompting her to sign up for the Fab Lab’s ShopBot authorization. “My first step in conquering the CNC router,” Kaiser Smith says.
Even her commute to Hyde Park has inspired her art. Her increase in driving “resulted in hundreds of snapshots of Chicago streets, which led to a new body of work that combines digital prints on transparency film with laser-cut acrylic.” What was only supposed to be a project with about 12 works ended with 32. “Whether photographic or created with Adobe products, images printed on film or clear acrylic will make their way into the math-based, geometric, laser-cut acrylic work, eventually.”
Her advice to other Polsky Exchange members? “I have none. People have their own path. I can only assume that by nature of membership, we are all motivated, inquisitive, and on course.”
And, of course, we asked her some other questions (just for fun) …
IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Control over time. I always want more studio time, more time to learn, more time to make. That’s the selfish, personal reason. On a more socially responsible level, I would go back in time to warn and inform in order to stop bad people from doing bad things.
WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL AND WHY?
Dog. Dogs are loyal, loving, curious, mischievous, brave, and as pack animals, communal. It’s how I want to be and the type of community I want to be part of.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY BE?
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
Choose to be happy.
YOU’RE TRAPPED ON A DESERT ISLAND AND CAN ONLY CHOOSE ONE BOOK TO READ, MOVIE TO WATCH, AND ALBUM TO LISTEN TO FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. WHICH DO YOU CHOOSE?
Book: Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard
Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy
Album: Soul to Soul by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble