Portrait of the Artist

Rebecca Smith

Woven Dreamscapes

By Noelani Kirschner | November 23, 2020
sensitive dependence, 2020
sensitive dependence, 2020

Rebecca Smith—the fiber artist-in-residence and a professor at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville—has experimented with embroidery, stitching, and crocheting but works primarily as a weaver. Smith constructs her sculptural fiber installations from scratch, beginning at the loom to assembling the final product within the exhibition space. “Weaving turned into the thing where everything makes sense,” she says. “There’s a magic to fiber I haven’t gotten over.” She was initially drawn to the medium as a meditative practice as an undergraduate at the Maryland Institute College of Art. “The way that I could start to process things was through these repetitive actions,” Smith says. “But I was always trying to find a way to make them feel like something else.”

In her sculptures, Smith evokes a sense of wistfulness as she explores the liminal space between the familiar and the unknown. Her work, she says, can simultaneously evoke the sublime feeling of standing alone in the middle of a forest amid rustling leaves and the fear that something else could be lurking nearby. Recently, Smith has begun to burn paper with incense in her exhibition spaces. The idea is to awaken the viewer’s senses by luring her audience into each piece through both the tactility of the work and the aromas around them “I think a lot about tension as a fiber artist,” she says. “It’s the harmony between the balance so the structure holds. How do you pull someone into that tension in a way that holds them?”

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