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The Ford Mask

by Melvin Smith

Dimensions: 90 x 52
Gift of the artist, 2004

The Ford Mask by Melvin Smith
Photo by John Jernigan

The Artwork

Melvin Smith’s creative process began with collage and naturally developed into large sculpture with found objects. The same aspects of collage, constructing objects of various colors and shapes to create images, can easily be seen in his sculptures. The Ford Mask is an example of Smith's process - he collects objects found in junk yards like old car parts and steel pieces to create bold structural masks. These masks are often portraits of the people from his old neighborhood, recalling the smiles, features, and spirits of his past. Smith’s artwork is an illustration of his explorative journey that brought him to where he is today. His images introduce viewers to the people and places that shaped his life. Through the objects that most people may see as junk, Melvin can evoke emotion and nostalgia. Like the name implies, The Ford Mask was created with body panels from a Ford Ranger pickup.

The Artist

Born in Oklahoma City, Melvin R. Smith earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota. Though his pursuits as an artist began with his graduation in 1975, it was Smith's experiments with collage in 1983 that led him to his artistic voice and later sculpture. Smith, along with his wife and artist partner Rose, traveled greatly searching for the communities that would provide them the experiences they sought to inform their works. These experiences led to exhibitions and gallery representation across the nation from Oklahoma to Minnesota to Illinois and New York. With works ranging from collage paintings on paper to fabricated sculptures of found objects that tower stories into the air, Smith's work can be found in prestigious collections including those of Colorado State University, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and the St. Paul Insurance Companies of St. Paul. In addition to his work as an artist, Smith along with his wife, Rose, founded the Oklahoma Museum of African American Art.