Modern poetry & art by the contemporary Cleveland artist & poet Steven B. Smith
Smith - contemporary poet

Critique of "Hey Joe" by Kerry O'Reilly
January 2004
Kingsbridge, Devon England


Hello, it's Kerry from England. You said to email you my critical writing piece, so here it is! I got a good mark which was nice! Anyway I'd like to know what you think! Thank you!


"Hey Joe" by Smith - mixed media collage, 50" x 50"

I have chosen this piece to write about because I feel it connects with what I want to do with my final piece. It uses a range of media from different sources in an interesting and unusual way. It portrays a strong political message that Smith is not afraid to be honest about. When I first saw this piece, it just struck me because it was such a strong image it makes you stop and think about what it is trying to say. You consider all the aspects of society it could be referring to.

It is 50" x 50" and is square. It is painted in an uneven, organic looking frame which has been made up of menís belts with an under colour of red, white and blue to echo the American flag; it may also be a reference to irregularity within American society. It uses mixed media in an abstract way and is presented in the form of a collage, taking texts from different sources and using them to illustrate his point. Blue has been used as the background colour, giving it a cold feeling. It is not a solid colour either; it looks almost like a thick wash, and brush stokes are still visible. This also adds texture. It is unfussy with no real pattern, which again may be a reference to the irregularity. The areas of red that are placed around the picture draw your eyes around the piece; the reds also have connotations with death and blood. The cigarette and the skull also have these connotations. They use opposite contrasting colours to enable aspects to stand out against each other. The constant contrast with these negative images and references to America and American life creates links between the two allowing us to see things the way Smith sees them. It also demonstrates the way the media portrays America against the reality of America.

When I look at this piece, it provokes different emotions in me; it makes me feel both calm and angry all at once. It also makes me feel empowered, like it inspires me to do something to make a difference to something.

From reading about Smithís life, I discovered that he has had a very eventful life, doing things that most people would never do. Heís had so many jobs and tried so many different things. Heís been in trouble with the law on numerous occasions, but always seems to have managed to pick himself back up again. I think that after looking at a large range of his work that all these aspects may have influenced his work. Smith's work is original and unique. Smithís work uses controversy and opinion to create powerful and emotive images. He is very anti-war, anti-government and anti-American, and this comes through strongly in this piece.

This is one of my favourites of his work, but all of Smithís work has influenced me to use mixed media and base my work on a subject that I feel strongly about.

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