One of ten siblings, Hank Smith was raised in a homeschooling, home perched on top of a ridgeline in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Lexington, Virginia. When not seated at the kitchen table reading Robert Frost, Flannery O’Conner, or the King James Bible (the most poetic and inclusive translation of damnation and the damned), Hank and his siblings were let loose on the mountain. A teacher and class-room, the mountain’s deep dark hollows and bald craggy face gave space for imagination and inspiration. Armed with a sketchbook and curiosity, Hank’s science class was the creek, history class was digging around the ravines for Monacan ax heads and moonshiners’ stills, and fun was sneaking into the abandoned cabins of incarcerated weed farmers and mountain folk long gone.
While his relationship with formal art education never took off, Hank has constantly continued to paint. His art acts as a form of meditation and study, where he can explore both himself and the world around him. Inspired by his family lore and grounded experiences in Appalachia and the South, Hank studies southern landscapes as a physical amalgam for the South and all its parts. Plagiarizing gothic literature and in particular Derek Gladwin’s “Contentious Terrains,” Hank uses landscape to shear southern culture, identity, and history from the contrived tethers of time and narrative. His art studies the South as it truly lurks, protruding from a red clay river bed or pockmarked by the deep dark shadows of a magnolia tree.
While predominantly focused on the south, Henry’s art has made its way into homes and private collections across the U.S. and even the world, from San Diego, California, to New York City, even to St. Veronica, Colombia.