Renowned New York artist, Andrea M. Smith, has unveiled her latest solo exhibition, “Praying for Wings,” at the esteemed Here Gallery. The show opened on May 13th. Smith’s works dive deep into the themes of redemption, temptation, and the human struggle for liberation, drawing inspiration from the saintly narratives of Sasetta’s Saint Anthony.
The serendipitous discovery of a textbook plate featuring Sasetta’s “Saint Anthony Tempted by the Devil in the Form of a Woman” on her father’s birthday last year sparked the creative journey behind this exhibition. In a happy coincidence, the gallery proposed the same date for the show, aligning with her father’s birth date and her own birth time. This confirmed for Smith that it was the perfect timing of her artistic endeavor.
The title, “Praying for Wings,” was inspired by an emblematic sketch by Smith that encapsulates a moment of surrender, echoing the themes of atonement and ascension. The image questions whether we already possess the resources for our salvation, subtly colored by Smith’s personal experience of overcoming a severe injury in 2022.
Further deepening her exploration of resilience, Smith incorporates an evocative audio-piece by the same name. The 10-minute loop, echoing the artist’s euphoria of regaining her mobility, charts an aural journey through the streets of New York, the stone village in southern Peloponnese where her great grandparents were born, the night sounds of Athens, and the snowy backyard of her parent’s Minnesota home. The piece culminates in the ethereal notes of Sir John Tavener’s Ikon of Eros, lifting the listener to a transcendent realm where earthly burdens dissipate.
In her tribute to Saint Anthony’s temptation, Smith found a strong resonance with Diego Rivera’s rendition, particularly his use of entwined mandrake roots in place of holy figures. Studying the parables of Saint Anthony’s piety and torment, Smith has painted a complex landscape teeming with temptation and inextricably tied to the human form. Her works traverse the narrative spectrum from “Temptation” to its converse, “Seduced by an Angel,” ultimately asserting our innate connection with nature and our struggle to accept or resist its divine allure.