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Meet Kaitlyn Jo Smith

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kaitlyn Jo Smith.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Born in a Rust Belt city to a Rust Belt family, I was raised to value hard work, manual labor and frugality. It is those three values combined with an extreme loyalty to family, overly-sensitive heart and OCD that fuel my practice. At the age of 19, I broke off my engagement and left the rural farming community in which I was raised. Staying would have been so easy. It was the comfort and consistency that drove me away.

I headed to Columbus where I received my BFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design in my home state of Ohio. The next year I worked five different jobs, saving money and plotting a way west. My current residence is in Tucson, Arizona, where I am working towards my MFA at the University of Arizona. Since leaving home, my work has shifted drastically. I have always been interested in the ideologies surrounding the “working man” and attempting to better understand myself and where I am from. No longer able to photograph my hometown of Sycamore, Ohio, (a close-knit farming community 800 people strong) I turned to dirt. This material (drug 30 hours away from home) alongside vernacular photographs and a variety of other found objects have allowed me to approach making in a much more tactile way. This new way of working stems from traditions taught by the blue-collar laborers who raised me.

Please tell us about your art.
My art centers around themes of nostalgia and a strong longing for home by combining specific memories with stereotypes, expectations and idealizations of place. Being 1,990 miles away from the familiar has allowed me to push these ideas past surface level interpretations towards deeper physiological understandings. My background is in photography, but my work has recently shifted away from that medium. While I rarely make photographs, I frequently mine through my (categorized and alphabetized) archive of found vernacular photographs. I am also beginning to dabble in sculpture and installation and see my work continuing down that path for the foreseeable future.

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
It’s hard, it really is, but people make it work. I always joke that while I’ll never have money, I’ll always have experiences. There are plenty of grants and scholarships for residencies, equipment and other needs. Searching for them is almost another job in and of itself, but it is definitely worth it. Expect a lot of no’s, but power through, because one yes is all it takes. As for working, you have to figure out what is best for you. This summer I am working four separate jobs and creating very little art so that I can focus entirely on my practice come August.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
From most frequently updated to least: my Instagram (@kaitlynjosmith_art), my blog (, my website ( You can find prints for sale on my website if you are looking to support my practice (every little bit helps!). Currently my work is not on display anywhere west of the Mississippi, but I am good at keeping people informed of upcoming shows and events both on Instagram and my blog.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kaitlyn Jo Smith

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