MARCH 30: Kathy Smith


Time, Space & Animation: An Expanded Journey Across Fine Art Practice and New Media Technologies

Kathy Smith is an Australian artist who has been working with painting, animation, installation and sound since 1982. After graduating from Sydney College of the Arts in 1985, she studied and worked in Europe at the Dr Denise Hickey studio residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris and under the Dyason Bequest study grant at Studio Art Centers International, Florence, Italy; awarded by the Art Gallery of NSW, the Australia Council and The Sydney Morning Herald Traveling Art Prize. Since 1984, Kathy’s works have been screened internationally, including SIGGRAPH N-Space Art Gallery, Sundance Film Festival, New York Digital Salon, Hiroshima, Anima Mundi, and Ottawa International Animation Festivals.

She has a record of achievement in research and creative work spanning thirty years. This includes international research residencies in France, Italy and the USA funded by the Australian Network for Art & Technology, the Australia Council and Screen Australia. Kathy has exhibited at group and solo exhibitions such as Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Conservatorio di Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence, Italy, the Australian National Gallery, Canberra and Tamarind Art Gallery New York City, NY. Kathy is currently working on her new animation about time, non-local consciousness and expanded awareness at the point of death.


Kathy is Associate Professor at the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts, where she chaired the Division from Fall 2004 to Spring 2009 and from Fall 2010 until Fall 2014 establishing the BA in animation and digital arts, creating the semester abroad with Studio Art Centers International Florence, Italy and establishing the research collaboration with the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies in 2004. Kathy was Co-Chair of REDEFINING ANIMATION The 25th Annual Conference of the Society for Animation Studies hosted at the School of Cinematic Arts, USC 2013. Kathy teaches Expanded Animation, Master’s Thesis and irregularly Animation Seminar and Contemporary Topics in Animation & Digital Art. Her teaching focuses on expanded animation practice and animation as consciousness.

University and Academic Awards:

  • Mellon Award for Mentoring Graduate Students USC 2013
  • Impact Award for Education from Adobe Sytems Inc.2011
  • Interdisciplinary Zumberge Research Grant, University of Southern California 2010
  • Interdisciplinary Zumberge Research Grant, University of Southern California 2008
  • Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award in the Creative Arts, USC
  • 2005 Individual Zumberge Research Grant University of Southern California 2005



19 thoughts on “MARCH 30: Kathy Smith

  1. ZOEY says:

    Kathy’s presentation enriched my vision and I deeply impressed by her constant energy and spirits in reconstructing and experimenting with different materials, techniques and contents to echo kaleidoscopic and fast changes in the era we lived. Also, I really enjoyed seeing the way she structures the stories through visuals and direct hand-drawn sequences. Those assemblage oil paintings in one scene is like an overview of whole life landscape which make me feel floating above and within to experience something about subconscious and consciousness stream. These two elements coexist in the different individuals’ perceptions so that her works will reinterpret by people into miscellaneous formations to connect to their personal viewpoints.

    Her concept about perception also remind me one book—The Chinese X -files : the interpretation of Shan Hai Ching’s mystery by modern technology know-how”, written by professor named Ding Zheng Zong, he postulated that ancient monsters with weird appearances in the “Shan Hai Ching” ,which is Chinese classic the cutting-edge technologies devices from extraterrestrial civilization. Professor Ding hypothesized that ancient people didn’t have experience with high-tech so that they wrote down and delineated what they saw and heard related to technology as animals or their voices. Based on his surmise, “Shan Hai Ching”, rather than Chinese bestiary, is the ancient secret documents for military which is long-term observation by record keepers.

    According to bold assumptions and descriptions from this book, people tend to cast their ideology on the uncertain and abstract shapes with visual experiences and consciousness. In which in my viewpoint is “the interpretation of unknown things with residual memory of visual experiences”. No matter ancient recorders, professor Ding and Kathy’s works, they interpreted unknown and ambiguous shapes or concepts by applying own background and environmental experiences to get persuasive order and arrangement.

    It’s really intriguing topic to explore and dive into.


  2. Evan Tedlock says:

    It was amazing to see to Kathy’s work history and view her development as an artist and animator. Her direction and content are extremely fascinating to me and the way she speaks about all of her work is so intriguing as well. I appreciate her ability to use philosophical concepts as structures to hang her projects on. It gives them a deeper connection and meaning that isn’t apparent on first watch.

    There are a lot of layers in her work that are so fascinating and worth looking into further. For instance, when I was applying to USC and researching the faculty, I came across an older website for the ‘Slippages’ project. On that page she had a quote from the Maurice Nicoll book ‘Living Time and the Integration of the Life’ which prompted me to read it. That book has proven to be one of my largest inspirations for the past year and a half of work. Kathy is pulling inspiration from truly interesting places and just finding out what those sources are have provided me with enough material to drive a life of work. The most key aspect that I noticed was the journey element. All of these projects have to do with journey in some form and the ever evolving landscape is just one element of the journey theme. These works utilize Kathy’s unique journeys and visions but delivers them in a way that speaks more to the collective experience.

    I truly enjoyed listening to Kathy this week and I look forward to working with here for the next two years. Thanks for sharing Kathy!!


  3. Yu Yu says:

    Kathy Smith did lots of great works of visual experiences. From drawing the oil paintings frame by frame to the 3D animation, she tried all the different techniques she can do to complete her artworks. In her work “Living on the Comet”, she used many different art skills and combined them together very well. It talks about the cycle of life, and what is the time and space above the universe. The purpose of this film is not to give an answer, but to provide its own explanation.

    She gives us a great advice about leave the mistakes in the old works, learn from them, and fix them at the next one. If we can do that, we won’t constraint by our own past but make more progress in the future. I can’t wait to select her class next year!


  4. Jane G. Kim says:

    What I found the most interesting about this lecture was Kathy Smith’s exploration of visualizing the consciousness (and the unconsciousness). Again, for me it’s really fascinating when I am reminded of the different things that people invest their time into, things that I would have never imagined to expand expression on. Though I could tell that for Kathy Smith, her work is purely from passion. I admired that Kathy has been doing this for so long, adapting new techniques along the way.


  5. Bryan Lee says:

    I was left in awe hearing and seeing Kathy Smith talk about conceptualizing and animating the consciousness as it has always been an interest of mine, and to be able to see someone visualize and personalize it in real life is inspiring. I really enjoyed her sketched out straight-ahead animations as they were highly detailed and carried interesting narratives as well as perspectives. I also appreciated her exploration of using different medias to portray the consciousness in different lights. Her paintings and color schemes were beautifully articulated and helped transform my experience into a new level of thought. I’m looking forward to see what else Smith makes in the future as well as possibly taking a few of her classes in the near future!


  6. Katie Smith says:

    I really loved seeing Kathy’s animation process, her past works, and her current project. The way she combines different mediums of art to create her animation and work is so interesting and inspiring! There is a raw energy to her work that I really admire. I’m fascinated by the unconscious realm (especially the area between sleep and awake, and also death and what happens to our mind when we die) – so seeing her exploration and work on this was incredibly interesting. Kathy and her family seem very close, I hope she has found peace and comfort in her current project – it is looking really spectacular. (Also, it was really great meeting Kathy’s brother and sister and getting to chat with them briefly!)

    I’m very much looking forward to getting to know Kathy during my time here and hope to take one of her classes in the near future.


  7. Okike Franklin says:

    I have seen Kathy’s work before and what still puzzles me is how free-flowing she explores space on a flat surface. Fine!, granted that she had some cg experimental pieces too but her earlier work with just a paint and brush is amazing.
    I took Kathy’s expanded animation in my first year! the class started off awkward to me because I came from a narrative driven background so “experimenting” was new to me but over the years I’ve learnt to loosen up and experiment ‘in a way’ and I’ve discovered some new techniques and approaches to storytelling.
    I really enjoyed Kathy’s presentation and I can’t wait to see the end result of what she’s currently working on


  8. Ruchia Masuko says:

    Kathy Smith’s word “Animation is consciousness” is very interning perspective that she sees animations. Her works give audience the peerless experiences through the motions and artworks of her. Her works have very curious senses, and conciseness, which give us simulated experience of the senses through them.
    One of my understanding of “Animation is Consciousness” is that, because not only animations, all the elements in “my” world are also what “I” am and what “I” create, An animations is an artwork that is realization and embodiment of awarenesses and recognitions.


  9. Kun Xia says:

    I really appreciate last weeks’ seminar with Kathy Smith, Her work is brilliantly eclectic, not limited by one pattern, her uncanny ability of paint to embody natural phenomena in its apparently chance directions and at the same time to present a picture of embodiment. self-consciously mannerist form of abstraction, enamored of incongruities, references to both the abstract and not abstract painting and the more diffuse visual cultures of the
    present, not only artistic. Throughout the work she showed, it doesn’t aim to pleasing the audience, making art for the sake of art. It was also inspiring that she combine technology into her work, looks at the possibilities that the digital techniques give her to select decisions that she finds meaningful and powerful. The color she uses is very effective.


  10. Megan Simon says:

    Kathy Smoths work is brilliant. I absolutely adores her dedicated spirit to her interests despite little resources at the time for the subject matter. I loved the way she made abstract spaces make sense, which just goes to show how exceptional animation truly is. The impossible becomes possible in this art form. Kathy’s work is clearly on point to the art world, reflecting both new ideas in technology and relevancy to the trends of the time. Even now in our era of installation and VR Kathy has moved her work to the contemporary, yet stays true to herself, her ideas and her artistic insight. Each film was a true pleasure to watch and inspiring as someone who loves painting. It made me wish there was a painting in animation class I could take! It blows my mind what Kathy was able to accomplish, and her work is gorgeous! I hope I have her as a teacher!


  11. HyeonJeong Cho says:

    In the beginning of the semester, I had an office hours just to talk with Kathy. I was little bit nervous(worried about what to talk!) but we talked about my experience in Australia, meaning of time in animation, themes… It was really really fun time.
    Like Evan, I saw some of her works when I researched this school to apply, and I loved it. Since the general theme of my previous works were mostly traumatic event, sadness, or depression( questions about the life; what is life, what is like living as a female.. etc etc), I was fascinated by her works so I even mentioned her in my artist statement.
    Because of the reason, I was so excited when I got an e-mail from Lisa that Kathy would a presentation, and the seminar was sooo much fun. I was so happy to see her work(not only just a clip but entire pieces ) and listened her working process.
    Though I’m currently working on cartoon-like animation for my production 1 and I like doing it, I always love the other types of animation, which is normally called ‘Experimental Animation’. Maybe next semester or anytime soon, I’d like to back to the theme that I love to make just for expressing and communicating my ideas.

    Thank you so much Kathy for such an interesting seminar!

    (I LOOOOVE the use of colours, it reminded me Australia A LOT!)


  12. Amir Arzanian says:

    It was the first time I became familiar with Kathy Smith’s works. It was surprising for me that how deep she is thinking about animation. Her works was so impressive and attractive but the thing that attract me more was the thinking behind her works. Her explanation about time remind me the Henry Bergson, a French philosopher work and Gilles Deleuze interpretation from his work in a book named logique de la sensation. Kathy talked about passing time in animation which was similar to concept of event that Deleuze discusses. As Badiou says: “The event is the ontological realization of the eternal truth of the One, the infinite power of Life. It is no way a void or separated from what becomes.”


  13. Joe Stucky says:

    Kathy Smith walked us through some of her work and process. Such fun to see, and listen first hand about her artistic endeavors. Her painterly approach to animation is inspiring. I really appreciate her theories on animation. Time and space what a brilliant subject. Such core elements to animation in so many ways. Kathy is so easy to talk to about many subjects. I look forward to seeing more of her work.


  14. Yingzong Xin says:

    It was such a good experience to see Kathy Smith’s presentation last week. She is a good artist. The experimental style of her animation makes them really fun to see, even though most of time I didn’t understand what are those means. But Time and space is good material to express especially in animation form .And I was also really impressive of how deeply she thought about animation , her works are special !


  15. Sagar Ramesh says:

    It was nice to see Kathy’s presentations in seminar, especially because a lot of her work was a departure from the more objective animation work we’ve seen from other guests. It was interesting to see that so many pieces of her work tied back back to the human condition, as well as her own past and current struggles. The feelings she aimed to evoke with her work are very clearly communicated through her palette, her choice of subject matter, and everything else that ties her pieces together. It was also great to hear about her experience with academia and her reasoning behind her sabbatical; her perspective on the art-making process and inspiration was very enlightening, and I’m glad I was there for her presentation.


  16. Shang Song says:

    Great experimental, never stop. Kathy is the first teacher I saw when I came to USC, and I met her on the first Monday of the first semester. Throughout the semester she taught us to use 3D to make the experimental animation, and at the same time, we understood her artistic ideas and artistic goals. In this seminar, me and Franklin is who the most understanding of her , because we were her students in the first year.

    For my understanding, Kathy has three exploration directions in the work: the subconscious, the time and space, and the sound. I haven’t read more about the subconscious and the dream, and Kathy’s work shows me the”animation of subconsciou ” first time. I don’t know about psychology, but I can still feel a strong emotion. In the first semester , Kathy led us to carry out a large number of “space and time” expression of the exploration, with the form of 3D. As you know, I am good at 2D and I am not so good at 3D, but I feel the first time to experience the wonderful feeling of simulating space movement. The sound. Kathy has brought us to a national park, where record the sample sounds, and then proceed to the video. This is the first time I made a video based on the sound effect.

    BTW, Kathy is one of the greatest teacher help to me, in my first year, I live in fear of the environment. She is a friendly to me and encourage me to create, I didn’t give up at USC, one of the big reason is her encouragement.


  17. Sequoyah Madison says:

    I did not expect to be so emotionally effected by Kathy Smith’s work. Logically it seems mind boggling that Kathy’s emotional experience communicated through somewhat abstract, disparate, collaged, Australian elements resonated with me stronger than any narrative I have heard about death. Psychologically it seems makes sense, because writing a narrative and evoking emotion require different mindsets to be done effectively.

    Kathy knows a lot about a lot of things! I seriously enjoyed just listening to her talk about her relationship with technology and how it fits into her artistic process. “The best way to use technology is through ideas,” and I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I sit down to draw on the computer, without putting much thought into what I will create, and I find it is almost impossible to create something of value using this process. Like Kathy mentioned there is totally something natural about drawing on paper and I think the use of physical art materials for initial ideation is beginning to be dismissed by society – especially in the mainstream animation industry, where digital pre-production images crowd the pages of many pre-production animation books – because of how helpful technology is as a tool to actualize those initial ideas. I love the way Kathy composited her thumbnails into a rough animatic – the petite scale of the sketches on the stage, the shifting box outline, the genuinity of the sketch, and the raw physical medium all combine to create something so mesmerizing and gravitating, it becomes like a fetishized display of imagery.

    The comet animation reminded me how important sound is to animation. But perhaps the most impactful part of Kathy’s presentation was the questions she asked spectators. Are we ourselves if we don’t have our memories? Is there a reason why our consciousness goes as we get older, as we prepare to die? Thank you so much Kathy!


  18. Jing Huang says:

    I moved by Kathy’s passion in her work. Kathy is really good at combining different materials and technique to accomplish her goal. She is an artist who like a scientist have done a lot experiments in animation with fantasy different things. I do respect artists who play with their works and enjoy the process, Kathy is one. I remember her work “Living on the comet” which talk about the cycle of life which is a universal theme that is really philosophical .Artists always use a art form which they familiar with to convey their thought about cycle of life. Then Kathy combine so many different skills to talk about this philosophical theme. It’s fantastic! Thanks for this amazing presentation!


  19. Min Shi says:

    It was really great to view Kathy’s work chronology, from early oil paintings frame by frame to the 3D animation, I really admire that she tried different materials and techniques to interpret her film in years. Good artist is always challenging themselves, I think Kathy is one of those artists.
    Another thing that resonated me a lot was her explanation of “Animation is consciousness”, that is so true. Artist’s awarenesses and recognitions are the original of their theme.
    Looking forward to see her next “material” in her film!


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