Wherever I Travel is an ongoing series of drawings that grew out of my Ridgeline work. Combining graphite, sumi ink and, in some instances, oil and crayon, they have become an exercise in restraint and freedom simultaneously. Using the same motif – the horse in a gallop – and approximately 15-inches square, I have incorporated several original drawings in the fabrication of light boxes.

Why a horse? I see the series as a sublimation of dreams of travel  and journeys and the exploration of new territory.

A new series of large drawings  - mostly monochromatic - inspired by my August 2023 visit to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia.  All are on Arches Huile (oil) paper; approx 51 x 44 inches unless otherwise noted. Started in late 2023 and ongoing. 

2020 –
Drawings inspired by the film, The Turin Horse

The drawings (51 x 46 or 46 x 51 inches, and the smaller 15 x 23 inches) were started around May 19, 2020. Partly based on stills from Bela Tarr's film, The Turin Horse, they are all charcoal, graphite, ink and/or oil on Arches oil paper.

I have several indelibly imprinted images and experiences in my life that opened up my soul and that I hold onto for courage, sustenance and hopefulness. Not because they are hopeful messages per se but because of the  resounding resonance, for me, of the feeling that in the midst of life there is such quiet resignation and acceptance of one's fate. The Hungarian director offers such a haunting and mesmerizing visual poem that I felt compelled to turn to some of the imagery from the film. The haunting and mesmerizing experience of the long takes and the repetitive soundtrack combined with the minimal yet crushing narrative, resonated with me a long time ago and the events over the course of the past few months (2020) made me want to revisit the film.”


Surfacing Series is comprised of much smaller works (7 x 5 in) on either wooden panels or acrylic rice paper. In some instances, "intentional gatherings" of works have been grouped together to form one larger work, as in the case of  Surfacing,  which is one large panel, 28 x 70 inches, comprised of 56 wooden pieces, each 7 x 5 inches. Mediums vary from a combination of charcoal, sumi ink and/or oil in layered, monochromatic tones of black, white and blue-grey.

Drawings on acrylic rice paper in the same series are all individually framed and presented as unique pieces. The intimacy of the scale (7 x 5 in) contrasts with the physicality of the layering involved in working up many of the surfaces here and the artist became aware of the emotional release. She states, “I felt more and more compelled to keep doing these little works, not knowing where they were taking me, or what they meant, but finding consolation and balm in the process. I realized much later that they were a direct reaction to the corresponding events over the course of the summer; I had lost my desire for exuberant color and went out and stocked up on charcoal and sumi ink.” While most of the work in the Surfacing series are miniature abstractions and patterns – sometimes combined with strands of thread, here and there one might find trees, forests, flowers, birds, and mountains as well as hand-scribed entries from the artist’s journal or a quotation from a revered individual.

Smolen explains, “The emotional impetus for the series was, initially, the feeling of going under, feeling radically hopeless and despondent, not just because of professional disappointments due to the pandemic lockdown, but also, because of the traumas and cruelty which seemed to escalate and pervade our news cycle in a torturous, repetitive manner. The work ended up becoming a lifeline of sorts; something to hold onto and pull myself through the storm.”