Growing up, Kelly Smith wanted to be an architect, but her parents persuaded her to become a fine artist instead. Art was the family business.
Now in her 26th year of a full-time career in art, Smith can’t imagine spending her days doing anything else. She has been welding beautiful wall sculptures since she was just 16 years old.
Valley residents can see Smith’s work in person at the Arizona Fine Art EXPO in Scottsdale now through Sunday, March 26. The Arizona Fine Art EXPO is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and features 124 patron-friendly artist studios in a 44,000-square-foot space. The event gives guests the rare chance to meet artists like Smith, see them in action and learn about their journey, inspiration and techniques.
Born into an artistic family in Phoenix, Smith’s parents taught her to weld at a young age. They have owned 10 different galleries in Arizona and California over the years and specialized in creating bronze and copper sculptures. By accident, her parents discovered a way to create what looked like leaves while welding and branched into creating oak tree sculptures.
At 17, Smith decided to try her hand at creating wall sculptures. Eventually, she elongated the trunks and painted the sculptures, turning her parents’ oak trees into her own, unique aspen trees. The signature style became a customer favorite, and soon her parents and brother were creating aspen trees of their own. Smith estimates she’s created more than 4,000 sculptures in her lifetime, most by commission.
Smith participated in the Arizona Fine Art Expo with her family from 2004 to 2011. She enjoys the sense of camaraderie she feels with the other artists and decided to return to showcase her work by herself this year.
“It’s so incredibly satisfying to take a roll of copper and make something beautiful out of it,” Smith said. “I’m still surprised by what I can make with a bit of scrap copper, bronze rods and my own two hands.”
Her work has been sold from California to Japan, and recently she’s expanded into creating large sculptures for Burning Man in Nevada. Since 2018, Smith has won a grant every year through the Burning Man Project’s Honoraria artist program to create a large-scale installation sculpture.
She is hoping to be selected again for a 2023 grant, in which case patrons at the Arizona Fine Art EXPO will be able to watch her begin work on her large-scale sculpture for this year’s Burning Man event.
Arizona Fine Art EXPO
Throughout the 10-week event, patrons can enjoy watching artists sketch in pencil, charcoal and pastels; sculpt and fire clay; chisel, carve and shape stone; scratch and etch on porcelain and clay board, and saw and carve wood sculptures. Artists will also paint in all media; stain and etch gourds; design and create jewelry; and assemble mosaics.
Attendees will have the opportunity to meet Smith and many other artists with their own unique stories.
The Arizona Fine Art Expo takes place at 26540 N. Scottsdale Road, at the southwest corner of Scottsdale and Jomax roads, next to MacDonald’s Ranch.
Season passes to the expo cost $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and military and children under 12 are free. Parking is free.
For more details about the event or participating artists, call 480-837-7163 or visit ArizonaFineArtEXPO.com.