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Dennis Von Smith

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Dennis Von Smith

(Alpine, Utah, 1942 - )

Dennis Smith is a versatile artist who works in bronze, oil, metal, glass, and pen and ink. He was born in 1942 in Alpine, Utah, where he lived until 1961, when he traveled to Denmark to live for two and one-half years. While there, he was attracted to the expressionism and humanistic themes of Scandinavian art. Upon returning from Denmark, he graduated from Brigham Young University and continued his graduate studies there until being accepted to the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen, Denmark. By 1968, after returning to Utah, Smith had set up his first studio in his father’s old chicken coop and had begun to exhibit his work. Originally, he was best known for his sculptures of children, which exhibit his ability to capture moments of play, reflection, and intimacy. His sculptural pieces range from life-size garden sculptures to small, figurative bronzes and include mixed media assembleges. Some of these assemblages are marvelous flying machines. Abstract and machine-like, yet whimsical and approachable, these pieces represent the imaginings of childhood. Over the years Smith has created dozens of these fanciful aircraft. He says, "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fly? Almost everybody has..." These sculptures are dream machines, made of bits of this and that—delicate and intricate, but able to send children (or adults) aloft. In the late 1980s, Smith turned to oil painting for an “inner exploration, a creative exercise where I don’t have to prove anything.” While Smith may not have felt the need to prove himself with his paintings, the paintings are proving that as an artist, he is not restricted to three-dimensional art forms. His painting style leans towards Figural Abstraction, and his paintings, though often intensely personal, are built on metaphors universal enough to invite others in, to share their memories and symbols too. Some of his paintings, like Keeper of the Gate (1989), and many of his sculptures, are celebrations and explorations of the freedoms and restraints of childhood. This exploration of childhood and family has inspired artwork that is exhibited through galleries in the United States and is permanently installed in public plazas, airports and buildings. Smith has received commissions from public and private institutions, and his art is located in many locations across the United States as well as in Russia and England. Smith recently joined his son, Andrew, for a very popular exhibit of found- object sculptures at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art. “Dennis Smith is as much a philosopher as he is an artist. His work is a window into who he is and his views on life. His impressionistic style captures his exuberance for life and embodies his passion for transcendence—expressed through the spontaneity of children, reflections of the past, and hopes for the future. “At the core of Dennis' work is the spirit of the human soul. We often see this represented through the innocence of childhood. To Dennis, the child is a metaphor for life. Children's lives, as they explore the world around them, parallel our lives as adults as we discover our identity in this universe. Each piece by Dennis Smith captures this spirit, still vibrant and alive, frozen in the moment of discovery.” (

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