Friends, family and faculty gathered in the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery on Jan. 30 to celebrate the life and works of Eloise Pickard Smith. “Three Generations of the Smith Family” is an exhibition bringing together the works of Eloise, her son Carter Smith and her granddaughter Sara Smith to celebrate the 50th anniversary of UC Santa Cruz by honoring one of its first art advocates.
Eloise founded and directed the Cowell Gallery, mounting over 50 quality exhibitions during her time at UCSC. When Eloise and her husband Page Smith, the founding provost of Cowell College, left UCSC in 1973, the UC regents decided to name the gallery after her. Page and Eloise worked together to ensure the arts were supported across campus. Carter, who was also in attendance, has a distinct history with the UCSC campus as an adolescent and alumnus.
Eloise taught Carter how to tie-dye in the garage of the Cowell Provost House. This sparked an interest in art for Carter as a child, transforming his medium of tie-dye into a career.
“I decided after I’d been here that I would tie-dye my way to graduate school,” Carter said. “In a lot of circles, I’ve been recognized as the premiere tie-dyer, perhaps in the world. And it started here at UC Santa Cruz.”
A similar influence also resonated with Sara, Carter’s daughter. Sara recalls venturing around campus as a child, which she said reflects why the term “artist” is more than just a title for her.
“I don’t always even feel comfortable identifying as an artist because it’s not a career I set out for, but a habit of life,” Sara said. “I was always left to just be and the result was a reflection of my environment.”
Based on this rich family history, creating a cohesive flow for the exhibition was difficult to execute. Joan Blackmer, the gallery’s curator, said it took four days of moving works around before the show began to take shape due to the variety of materials on display.
Eloise’s work includes watercolor paintings and collages made of torn pieces of cloth. Carter’s work is rendered on his signature silk shibori — a Japanese tie-dying method — while Sara’s finely detailed drawings are showcased on paper.
Even though these mediums are dynamic, the incorporation of pattern brings each artist’s work together, highlighting how Eloise’s impact on both Carter and Sara’s work is demonstrated in the arrangement of the show.
“Eloise’s work is displayed in the center of the room, because she is the center of their lives,” Blackmer said. “I wanted to communicate that family was really important to her.”
Her presence in the arts community on campus also encouraged Carter to display his work as a senior at UCSC. His first exhibition was held at Stevenson in 1968. After receiving his master’s degree in fine art for sculpture at UC Santa Barbara in 1972, he was already established in the art world as a professional textilist, which furthered his career producing tie-dye imagery.
Carter was also a carpenter for two years, where he worked with many types of fabric on the job. His occupational experience with fabric and his passion for tie-dye eventually led him to become a fashion designer, perfecting the art of shibori with his son Noah for decades to come.
“Everything that I’ve learned in art and in fashion I’ve taught myself. Without my experience here at UC Santa Cruz I could never have done that,” Carter said. “Santa Cruz for an artist [is] a spectacular place. The environment just has this energy that permeates into you. It gets you excited.”
In addition to using the campus environment as a source of inspiration for her art, Sara also said that the importance of this event is influenced by the help of Faye Crosby, Cowell’s current provost. She not only helped organize this exhibition, but she furthers the legacy of Eloise by making the impact of the arts more accessible for UCSC students, just as Eloise did 50 years ago.
“If my grandparents were here now, they would see the magic she brings to everyone,” Sara said. “In education, the present is the future. She is continuing the idea of creating a bright and caring future.”
“Three Generations of the Smith Family” will be on display in the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery, across from the Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall, until March 6. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.