“Seen and Unseen” by Siana Smith

Jun 21, 2023 | 48 comments

On display from July 11, 2023 – August 27, 2023.

As a visual artist, Siana Smith is heavily influenced by the critical theory of Guy Debord, particularly his concepts in “The Society of the Spectacle.” This theory argues that contemporary society has replaced reality with a representation of itself, a spectacle, in which images dominate our lives and shape our perception of the world. It is highly relevant in today’s society and resonates deeply with Smith’s artistic practice.

Growing up in China during the post-Cultural Revolution era, Siana Smith experienced a life of scarcity, where handmade clothing by her grandmother held profound personal significance, symbolizing her grandma’s affection in a way that resonated deep in Siana’s subconscious. The loss of these garments left a void in her heart. Then, three decades ago, Siana immigrated to America and encountered a culture of consumerism. She was captivated by the seductive power of material possessions, subconsciously equating them with love and happiness.

At first glance, Smith’s large-scale paintings of high-fashion consumer products appear to embody the spectacle Debord criticizes. However, she intentionally depicts these subjects in rich, vivid colors and intricate details to highlight their allure and seductive power. Simultaneously, Siana incorporates symbols of transience, push, pull, and other elements to prompt the viewers to consider the more profound, often darker social and psychological context surrounding these objects of beauty. 

Furthermore, Smith’s artwork goes beyond the surface level and exposes the impoverishment of society brought about by the spectacles. She captures real-life moments that indicate the impact of commodities, particularly in the commoditized virtual world behind the screens, on our relationship with one another and the natural world. She hopes to engage the audience on multiple levels by creating visually stunning and alarming paintings. Rather than simply consuming the images, as Debord argues, the viewer is asked to actively participate in the act of seeing.

Siana Smith’s artwork seeks to challenge societal spectacles and delve into the complexities of human emotions, experiences, and connections.

Artist Biography:

As an immigrant who came to the United States in the early 1990s, Siana earned her master’s degree in computer science, worked as a software engineer, and then dedicated herself to raising a family. Subsequently, Siana found her true calling in art and painted commodities ranging from fashion accessories to used tissues. She uses vivid colors, larger-than-life scale, and fine details to emphasize subjects and subject matter. Her figurative works catch fleeting moments in life, fostering engaging dialogues on issues in a social and psychological context.

Siana earned her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree focusing on fine art painting from California College of the Arts, San Francisco, in 2021. Her paintings have been shown nationally, including at The De Young Museum of San Francisco, the New York Academy of Art, the Triton Museum of Santa Clara, CA, Southern Arkansas University, the Haggin Museum in Stockton, CA, and various other galleries. 

Siana has a passion for public art and community service, having painted murals in the San Francisco Bay Area, and currently serves on the City of Saratoga, CA Public Art Commission. Siana is a signature member of American Women Artists (AWA) and a member of the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art (NCWCA). She recently completed a 6-month Artist-in-Residence program in Navasota, Texas.

To learn more about Siana and her work, visit her website or follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

Reception Date: Friday, July 21, 2023 from 3 – 5 PM, on-site.


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