Bob Smith – 2009 Artist of the Year

Bob Smith
Bob Smith, 1930 - 2020, born in Los Angeles, made his mark on the Pomona Valley in many ways—as an illustrator, a teacher, and an author.

Bob Smith, 1930 – 2020, born in Los Angeles, made his mark on the Pomona Valley in many ways—as an illustrator, a teacher, and an author. He served in the military for two years beginning in 1950, and after leaving the service married Gwen Shockley in 1952.  

Bob Smith - Not to the Best of My Recollection
Not to the Best of My Recollection

Smith then enrolled in Pomona College,  graduating in 1956, followed by studies at the Claremont Graduate School. Like Andrée Mahoney and Martha Underwood, he was hired by Chaffey College, where he taught both studio art and art history for forty years, until his retirement in 1996. At Chaffey he expanded course offerings and developed programs in film history, history of photography, and history of broadcasting. He also developed academic programs in television production, film making, and photography. For his efforts he was voted “Faculty Speaker of the Year” in 1985. He filmed documentaries on such diverse subjects as Andy Warhol, the Alta Loma-Claremont flood, and Sam Maloof. He also continued to paint. He had solo shows at a number of regional venues, including the libraries in San Bernardino, Upland, Pomona, and Rancho Cucamonga, and the Riverside Art Museum, as well as the CCMA.  

Smith began sketching Alta Loma landmarks in the late 1970s and produced calendars with these drawings. This led to a series of architectural renderings of buildings for the campuses of the Webb Schools, the Claremont Graduate University, and Cal Poly Pomona, as well as the cities of Pomona and Claremont. His talents are fully on display at the Claremont Heritage Gift Center in Memorial Park, where his drawings have been reproduced on mugs, magnets, and other souvenirs.  

Smith published an illustrated book on local history, Redefining the Inland Valley. It was released in two editions more than a decade apart, in 1999 and 2011, reflecting the changes in the region. The book contains driving tours, a reading list, and a dictionary of places, people, and events of interest. He also created a coloring book, The Seven Lost Ranchos of Our Inland Valley. In 2009 he and Andrée Mahoney were featured artists in the Chaffey Professors Show.

Bob Smith - Please Repeat the Question
Please Repeat the Question (2005) – Gift of the artist

This political satire is rendered in a highly original broad, painterly style. The rapid execution communicates a vibrant energy that draws the viewer’s eye. The easel-scaled painting presents a half-length male figure, about life-size, who is dressed in a suit and positioned in front of two microphones. He has clapped a hand to his head, presumably after speaking the phrase of the title, a tactic often used by witnesses to allow them time to prevaricate or wriggle out of damning testimony. Set up high in the pictorial field are small-scale figures with green faces reminiscent of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch; all are male and similarly attired in a blue suit with red tie. On the right, a cropped American flag shows only four red and white stripes.

Smith used thick, visible brushstrokes with bright pink and yellow highlights. The large area of saturated yellow that surrounds the figure clashes deliberately with the pink highlights. The white highlights on the lenses of his glasses create an impenetrable barrier—conveying an all-too-familiar frustration with the testimony of authority figures, as the viewer is blocked from any connection with the witness or any understanding of what they are saying. In this caricatural painting, Smith mocks the mass media imagery of political figures, satire that is as relevant today as when it was created fifteen years ago. 

Reference: David Allen, “Bob Smith Knows the Valley from A to Z,” Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, February 10, 2011.

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