Artist Survey #13: BZ Smith

I was introduced to BZ at a post-Thanksgiving celebration in 2007. We found we had many things in common, including the dream of seeing Sonora as an artisticly centered community with heavy youth involvement. Ever since she has been introducing me to local artists, designers, board members, organizations, entrepreneurs and festivals. Until recently she was a member of the Central Sierra Arts Council with which I try to volunteer as much as possible. She is an advocate for youth arts and nurturing the future of our community as well as preserving it’s rich history. I really can’t say enough great things about BZ, her open heart or her sharp mind.




Name: B.Z. Smith

Location: Tuolumne County

Medium(s): Mixed Media, Storytelling.

What do you consider yourself (artist/designer/other)? Performance artist & dabbler into visual arts

Where can we see your work (place/publications/url)? for storytelling information.  I have an award-winning CD published with Cynthia Restivo and Bill Roberson by that name:  The Story Quilters.  It’s available at and in Tuol-Co at Mountain Bookshop

When did you start gaining interest in artistic forms of expression? In the womb.

Who/What inspired your interest? I have a crazy artistic family.  It is in my genes.

Where do you first remember being exposed to art? Yep.  In the womb.

What is your day job? Art.

Why do you create? I have to create.  My heart, my mind drive me to create, to build, to get messy!

Is there any recurring theme in your work? Childhood journeys come up a lot. I’m just finishing a painting called “Childhood’s Dreams.” It’s about my forever quest to live in France, to remove myself from American culture, and live in the dream-state of Romantic Paris—a fantasy world that does not even exist!  Another recurring theme is my relationship with nature—the sea, earth elements. Within those themes, I have a signature that I’ve developed that I call “tangled.” Wires, beads, bits of pottery that make up a tangled mess—a lot like my life.

What do you want from your work? I want the joy of knowing I’ve connected with an audience to express some common feeling or shared value. This comes up a lot in storytelling.  I hope to make these same connections through my visual work.

What do you want viewers to take from your work? That same sense of connection.  And I hope to leave a question dangling in the air that lets the audience/viewers ponder their own thoughts.

How often do you work on personal projects? Constantly.

How often do you work on commissions or commercial work? My storytelling? A lot. My visual art, not at all.

Does your art support you financially? Yes. My storytelling has given me a decent supplement to other income for many years.

Do you feel preoccupied with your art, do you think about it often during the day and night and do you anticipate your next session? My art work does take up a lot of mind space!

What do you do in your spare time besides your art? Sleep.

Which musicians are you currently interested in? Well, the list is long…Today it’s Gogol Bordello. Yesterday it was Tim Minchen. It’s always Vivaldi and Mozart. Tomorrow it might be Polka Accordion. My musical tastes and experiences are very eclectic. I am all over the musical map!

Are there any events you are looking forward to attending? The Strawberry Music Festival.

How long do you generally take on a piece? Storytelling—years. Each story sits in me, evolving over a course of time. I might learn a story to tell on the very same day, but that same story in two years will be completely different with a much deeper sub-text. It has lived in me, and I in it. Paintings—I tend to do the main piece rather quickly in one day. Then I let it sit for a while. Later I may change it, augment it—or even paint over it completely.

Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of your art? Yes. I get so absorbed in my work that I lose sight of anything else. I make a huge mess, and it spreads into my partner’s space. Once my husband, the dear and departed Rick Thorpe, said, “Every time I create a new horizontal surface, you fill it up!”

Do you work on multiple projects at once? Unfortunately, yes. And this is what gets me in trouble.

Do you have trouble parting with your finished work? No. Make it. Love it. Pass it on!