Can there be beauty in deformity? Why do we stare so closely at the ribs of starving Africans? Do we wonder how humankind can allow such horrible things to happen, or are we just fascinated by our own mortality?
In truth, most of us do not like to ponder these questions, let alone answer them. But Smyly's work forces us to address them. We stare, we grow uneasy. But we cannot turn away.
The pieces on these pages - the core of Smyly's oeuvre - probe the troubled relationship between beauty and tragedy. Disfigurements of the human form which might normally repel us are here rendered in such meticulous detail, with such exquisite technique, that we cannot help but gaze longer at them, falling gradually into a world of infinite moral complexity.
Smyly will tell you that these pieces are political, but that comes far short of explaining their power. These are human beings after all, their faces so familiar.
Most artists simply ask us to look at their work. Smyly asks us for a little bit more - to look inside own souls as well - and contemplate how humankind could visit so much horror upon itself in our times.
- Mark Rykoff, June 2005