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Art&Seek Q&A: Cara Michelle Smith
by Betsy Lewis 6 Aug 2009

Artist Cara Michelle Smith takes on the North Texas art scene at this weekend’s SEED auction. But what exactly is a Kunstallationist? Find out in this week’s Art&Seek Q&A.



Artist Cara Michelle Smith loves the smell of film. The twentysomething photographer will finish her degree from the University of North Texas sometime next year, but her assault on the local art world is well under way. She is a founding member of the Kunstallationists, an art collective headquartered out of Dunn Bros. Coffee in Addison (their most recent show, Pow! Zap! Kunst!, ran one night only and included the likes of Frank Campagna, Hal Samples and Erica Felicella). On Friday night, Smith will be one of the contributing artists to SEED, the annual fundraiser to earn the operating costs for Art Conspiracy in December. Each artist was handed a coffee tin and instructed to conjure it into a lantern; the Cara Michelle Smith rendition will surely be a magic lantern, judging from her feisty responses to this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:

Art&Seek: Are you a coffee drinker?

Cara Michelle Smith: I am indeed a coffee drinker. I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker until I went back to school. Then I realized I needed a way to keep myself running in the morning after pulling an acrylic all-nighter. Coffee is the tested and true means of college survival. I also like hot tea – Earl Grey is the shizznit.

A&S: Tell me about your workshop experience with Mary Ellen Mark in Oaxaca, Mexico. Was that exclusively for photographers with three names?

C.M.S.: That was absolutely amazing. She and I totally hit it off from the beginning, when we both realized we worked as tri-name artists. It was a match made in long-name heaven! Truly though, she was a great teacher and an amazing woman with tons of experience to impart on lowly photog wannabes like me. The greatest lesson I learned from her is to be more confident as a photographer. “Be bold!” she repeatedly said to me during our daily critiques. “That’s how you get the great photos!”


Works by Cara Michelle Smith

A&S: You are obviously attuned to the visual, so why did you stop watching television?

C.M.S.: Television is almost purely visual, it’s true. But when the visual completely lacks substance, I completely lack interest. To me, the screen that sits in most of our houses is a latent artistic medium waiting for the right person to harness its power and create something meaningful. I do watch movies on my television via a Netflix account, but when there is no movie to be watched, then the television sits with quiet, heavy potential until another DVD shows up in the mailbox.

A&S: What are some of the dilemmas you have to face down when you’re putting together an art show?

C.M.S.: When Andrew Tolentino and I are planning a Kunstallation event, there are definitely days when we have to talk each other off the ledge. But these are mere freak out sessions brought about by our very long to-do lists. We have been lucky to work with such an amazing network of artists, family, friends and whiskey waitresses who help make each and every show run smoothly from start to finish.

A&S: How did your SEED lantern turn out?

C.M.S.: I am pleased. The piece is called Bananas, and it has been described as very zen-like, which I think is an appropriate descriptor. I had my ups and downs with this project, but in the end I think it was a great success. This project has also rekindled my love of furniture design.

A&S: What’s so great about the smell of film? Has anyone at school caught you smelling actual film?

C.M.S.: The smell of film, or the smell of a wet lab in general, is the greatest smell ever! To me it means excitement, experimentation and lot’s of hard work that eventually pays off and makes the blood, sweat and tears totally worth it!

The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.

  • Never settling for status quo, taking detail and crafts(wo)manship to another level, Cara Michelle Smith strives for new heights of creativity with each passing day. She is a consistent inspiration to me and anyone lucky enough to be graced with her dedication to imagination.

    I couldn’t have asked for a better Artner in crime.