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Artist's Statement

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Dana Ann Smith

Tucson, AZ

Life began as primitive cells in a world slammed by asteroids, but since the Cambrian explosion over 500 million years ago that began the age of multicellular organisms, an astounding variety of exotic and resilient life forms have diversified throughout the world. Life forms found today in the rugged Sonoran Desert have developed extraordinary physical defenses that are key to their survival. This beautiful yet brutal desert has inspired me to investigate the world of invertebrates and microorganisms, the survivors of multiple planetary catastrophes, whether gathered from a habitat in my backyard pond and examined under a microscope or encountered while roaming the desert. My oversized ceramic sculptures and drawings serve to re-create and interrogate the

magnificent structures that these creatures have used as protection for survival. As we enter the era of the Anthropocene, scientists state we are entering our sixth mass extinction event and there is concern over our own adaptability. Because our future environment will be one of extremes, my artwork focuses attention on the microorganisms and insects which have endured and even thrived over previous extinctions. We can learn from their secrets. Humans must adapt to extreme heat and long-term drought, these small and armored desert creatures have a lot to teach us. My art brings attention to their advanced characteristics for survival. The possibilities for humans in the hellish conditions possible in the next hundred years are imagined.

Artist's Bio

Dana Smith resides in Tucson, Arizona and finds inspiration for her sculptures and paintings from her years of residing in the rugged Tucson Mountains. Whether observing the night sky or finding delight in the exotic creatures that live under rocks or in her pond, her work reflects her love of the natural world. Coming from a scientific background in medicine, many of her pieces reflect her knowledge of contagions, microbiology, and evolution. Dana has displayed many of her sculptures at the Tucson International airport and her pieces have been juried into many competitive exhibitions throughout southwestern United States. Her sculpture Imagining Pangea was awarded the Kellogg purchase award at the Paper and Clay exhibition at Pomona College, and 

Stella-saurus is now in the permanent collection of the Hyde Art Gallery at Grossmont College. She continues to share her expertise in figurative sculpture with both adults and high school students through lectures and workshops. Dana’s current work draws inspiration from organisms “that have survived, adapted and diversified since the Cambrian explosion, 500 million years ago!” Many of her ceramic and glass sculptures imagine a future planet, one of continued extremes, and how humans may or may not learn to evolve and adapt as many of our creatures have living in the Tucson Mountains of the Sonoran Desert. Currently a third-year student in the MFA program at the University of Arizona, she is constantly pursuing challenges in contemporary art and community concerns.

May 2024 University of Arizona MFA in 3DXM

May 2006. University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Bachelor of Fine Arts: Studio Art with emphasis in Combined Media

May 1984. University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Master of Science:
Nurse Practitioner

May 1980. Texas Christian University, Ft. Worth, TX
Bachelor of Science

Public Art Works

February, 2000 - Tucson, AZ
Tucson Department of Transportation :“ParkwiseTICET” Commissioned to paint a bus as
part a new program. “The Gila Monster.”

March, 2003 - Tucson, AZ
Tucson Pima Art’s Council “Ponies del Pueblo”. Commissioned to paint life size pony sponsored by
Casino of the Sun and The Educational Enrichment Foundation.


February 21, 2000 - Tucson, AZ
“Eye-catching shuttles to serve downtown“ Tucson Citizen article featuring my Gila Monster bus painted as a public art piece for Tucson Intercity
Express Transit.

April 13, 2000 - Tucson, AZ
“It’s Cool Art- if you can see it” Arizona Daily Wildcat article featured accepted piece “Girls love Dogs_Dogs Love Girls”

September 5, 2002 - Tucson, AZ
“Tucson artist uses talent to heal, honor 9-11 victims” Tucson Citizen article on the history of my mixed media work which now hangs at the Santa
Rosa Recreation Center

December 2005 - Tucson, AZ
“The Works of Dana Smith” Arizona Public Media video bio featuring personal studio interview.

March 2006 - Tucson, AZ
“Dana Smith Animals in Clay – A two day hands on workshop.” Southern Arizona Clay Association News article describing my works and announcing a 2-day workshop where I did demonstrations constructing animals, repairing broken sculpture, and how to use metallic paints and patinas. pp. 6-7.

March 2008 - Tucson, AZ

“167 Local artists open studio doors to you.” Arizona Daily Star article featuring photos of my Tucson,AZ studio along with personal interview featuring my work

March/April 2009 - Tucson, AZ
“The World of Dana Smith” by Thomas Kerrigan printed in the journal New Ceramics pp. 29-31.

November 2009 - Tucson, AZ

“Peak into Artists Inner Sanctum.“ Downtown Tucsonan article featuring image of my work as kickoff for Tucson Open Studio Tour

Teaching and Presentations

April 2008 “Animals in Clay Then and Now!”
Lecture with slides presented to the Southern Arizona Clay Association members and the general public. Included present and historical slides of art pieces and how they have influenced my work. April 25, 2008, held at 7th Avenue Art Studios.

May 2008 “Animals in Clay”
two-day hands-on workshop sponsored by Southern Arizona Clay Association. Demonstrations included how to make an animal to scale using three-dimensional models, how to repair clay pieces (techniques of Bondo and epoxy), and the use of metallic paints and patinas. April 26 and May 3, 2008

July 2008. “Make your Martian in Clay
” a two-day class teaching scientists involved in the Phoenix Mars Mission how to create simple clay figures bringing to life their ideas of martian creatures.

July 2009 Tucson Museum of Art Summer School.
Held summer school ceramics class in ceramics for high school students: hand building, coil building, basic firing, and glazing techniques were explored.

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