BRAVE DEBUT

BY LESLIE J. THOMPSON | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

Cameron Smith is style and creativity personified. The charismatic former ad agency principal and media personality brings vision and passion to everything he does, from selecting superstar talent for global jazz festivals to crafting innovative ad campaigns for top-tier clients, like the Dallas Cowboys and Dream Lending. Known as a fashion tastemaker for his sartorial style and beloved as the former morning host on 107.5 The Oasis and executive producer and host of Smooth Jazz TV, Smith is exploring a new outlet for his creative instincts with the opening of Bishop Arts Modern (BAM).

“I just made a conscious decision, my creative space was ripe to blossom into an accessible destination gallery,” says Smith of the artist’s studio in Bishop Arts Co-op, where for almost a decade he has been tirelessly honing his talents as a painter, designer and mixed-media artist. The converted mid-century contractor’s yard on Davis Street in the heart of the Bishop Arts District houses several other artist studios and pulsates with the creative energy Smith instigates wherever he goes. Stepping into the role of gallerist, curator and artist-in-residence was a bold step for a man who has spent 30 years entrenched in a highly successful media, advertising and music career.

“This is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little boy, curled up on the sofa with my dad, listening to his vast jazz collection and marveling at the art on the Blue Note album covers. I’m on the precipice of something here that is much bigger than me,” says Smith. The wall behind him is covered with monochromatic minimalist paintings and photographs from Smith’s opening exhibit, Life in Black and White, the first in a four-part series of his work entitled ARTX4.

The erstwhile ad man’s professional change of course perhaps is not surprising, given his upbringing. Growing up in Canada, his mother was a dance teacher and father a professor and jazz aficionado, who spent Sunday mornings listening to recordings of Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald on the stereo. Smith loved music, from funk to soul and jazz, but he gravitated to art and graphic design when he was very young.

He never stopped pursuing his craft, designing his high school mascot and joining genius illustrator Trey Aven to form Outlaw Advertising in 1980. Smith finally held a highly successful private show of his works in his East Kessler Park home, a Bauhaus masterpiece that he bought in 1994. As friends and patrons clamored for more, Smith’s desire to create new art became a central focus, so he moved his home painting space into studio one of the Bishop Arts Co-op.

This June, BAM will exhibit Organica, a collection of Smith’s organic sculpture, followed by an August show called Luminesce, a collection of indoor/outdoor large-standing, minimalist modern lamps that showcase the diversity of his artistic talents. In November, Smith’s highly personal ARTX4 series concludes with Kind of Blue, a stunning collection of jazz-inspired impressionist paintings.

In keeping with his eclectic nature, Smith does not limit himself to canvas, preferring to paint, scar, splash and attack mediums as diverse as particleboard, archival paper, found objects and corrugated plastic panels commonly used in corporate work spaces. “When I do these larger pieces, it’s about the physicality for me,” notes Smith, who says he likes to be aggressive in his approach and his materials. “I have a color palette, theme and willing vulnerability, I’ve always been about improvisation and mastery of technique. It’s all about authenticity and mood. If I’m not feeling something viscerally, I can’t paint it with honesty.”

He continues: “The Bishop Arts Modern Gallery isn’t about me; it’s really about my friends and contemporaries, who are fabulously gifted artists, and giving them a full-throated, uncensored voice. There is so much great art here, I’m thrilled that seriously undervalued artists are finally being discovered and enthusiastically collected … it’s made BAM a go-to gallery for designers and collectors who have the vision for what’s going to be the next big thing.”

Leslie J. Thompson is a Dallas-based freelance writer with a passion for interior design.