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Smith’s Senior Exhibit represents escape from reality

May 6, 2015
By cnp
Posted in Art

University of the Ozarks art major Anna Smith of Vilonia, Ark., will present her Senior Exhibit, "Cosplay Self-Portrait," from May 9-14 in the Stephens Gallery.

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Senior art major Anna Smith will showcase her exhibit, "Cosplay Self-Portrait," from May 9-14 in the Stephens Gallery.

There will be a reception to meet the artist from 7-8 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, in the gallery, located in the Walton Fine Arts Center.

Smith, who has autism, said her art pieces in "Cosplay Self-Portrait," represent her escape from reality.

"I have difficulty communicating with other people due to my autism," said Smith, who will graduate on May 16 as part of the University’s Class of 2015. "I retreat from reality as a way to escape this overly complicated world.  My safe space is a place where I can express myself emotionally without judgment.  My artwork documents my retreats through a series of self-portraits.  I portray myself in the Manga style because of its simple yet expressive appearance with most of the attention going to the character.  I find the big eyes and exaggerated portrayal of emotions appealing. Going into this retreat is like putting on a costume."

Smith said her portraits resemble a photo ID "because they are a passport to my mental reality."

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Artwork from Anna Smith’s senior exhibit, "Cosplay Self-Portrait."

"I use a more simplified color palette that focuses on shape and line to define the persona," she said. "To reference the real world, I use black and white photographic environments.  These environments are places that I have personal meaning to me, such as my bedroom back home and the forest reserve in California.  Even in these places, I feel the need to escape because of common-place conflicts with my family or friends.  When I feel bored or frustrated in a change in routine, I retreat into my Shoujo characters.  When I am angry or feel traumatized I become one of my sci-fi characters.  When I am in this zoned out situation, I am completely detached from the outside world which is one of my symptoms of my autism.

The self-portraits document her journey into her safe space, Smith said.

"The images contain my fantasy, Manga character in a realistic personal space," she said.  "I find these works very therapeutic because it allows me to get through uncomfortable situations."