Eli Smith is an activist and visual artist from long Island, New York. She received her bachelor’s degree in Physics from the State University of New York at Geneseo and MFAs from CalArts in both Collaborative Performance and Art & Technology. The discipline of Science and of Art are not disparate: in each the practitioner is driven to observe the world and strives to describe it in a language that resonates as true.
Eli’s individual art practice is rooted in her experience in collaborative performance. She began her professional arts career as a scenographer for the stage. The psychology of space, the discipline of time-based semiotics and the power of immersion are continued interests. She continues to cast the viewer as a participant in her work and remains dedicated to strategies of intimate engagement as part of a feminist methodology of artistic meaning-making. Although her practice is not medium-specific, her process always begins with narrative. Specific topics of interest include mental illness, class, child abuse, femme identity and trans-generational trauma.
Eli is committed to social change and her community work has focused on issues of economic inequality, housing, gender inequality, mental illness and homelessness. She served as both an Americorps member and as an employee at the Henry Street Settlement House in NY. She was a founding member of the Mastic Beach COAD and the resulting Jubilee Center, a nonprofit dedicated to providing disaster relief to local communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. Eli has been a dedicated volunteer mentor and tutor at local libraries and community centers across the country and has worked professionally as both a tutor and as a personal aide for more than 15 years. Teaching is a part of her practice and she views art-making as a community act.
Eli was recognized at the 2015 Prague Quadrennial for both her 2014 performance art piece “For Your Inspection” and her 2014 stage design for California Repertory Theater’s “Next to Normal.” Recent collaborative projects include Lew Klahr's 2017 experimental film "Hearse," Edgar Arcenaux's 2016 performance art piece “Until, Until Until…”, and Nataki Garrett's devised work, “The Carolyn Bryant Project,” which opened at RedCat in May of 2018. Her video installation "A Continuous Thread” appeared at The Box Gallery in June of 2018 and her narrative installation “Tiger Play” premiered in December of 2018 at CalArts. Eli’s interactive installation performance “Talent Show” will appear at The REEF in 2019 as part of Hannah Varamini and Brd Driessen’s curational project “Love’s Remedies.”