Joan Goldsmith Biographical Essay
“Call me a flip artist. I consider myself a flip artist because I am always looking for new challenges and directions. My style is continually changing. New life experiences create varied themes for me. When I have completed a body of work, I sometimes change the material. A new surface can push me into unexplored areas. Environment, as well, plays a part in my changing directions. This constant search for a way to go keeps my work fresh and exciting. I don’t ever want to copy myself. Painting for me has always been a spontaneous act, fueled by emotion and its release, rather than intellect and reason.”
Abstract Expressionist Joan Goldsmith worked across multiple disciplines in the form of prints, collage and sculpture. As a painter, educator and book illustrator the artist examined topics of nature, identity and feminism. Known for her muted palette and loose washes, her paintings possessed a quiet energy with geometric panes that capture the viewer though their shifting intensity. Her early oil paintings, inspired by Richard Diebenkorn, were large scale and based upon tight geometry with a special emphasis on patterns and subtle color combinations. Her later works echoed the densely scribbled strokes of Joan Mitchell, which eliminated hard edges through the interruption of color fields. Goldsmith’s signature style of “layered canvases” was informed by her use of blended colors and feathery brush strokes. Her smaller collages invoked similar effects with torn prints, overlapping tissue and patches of corrugated cardboard.
Goldsmith’s work has been described by critics and collectors as both tranquil and powerful. Critic Eileen Watkins of THE STAR-LEDGER remarked, “Next to coloring, composition is the most important ingredient in Goldsmith’s works, and she is skilled at creating visual rhythms through her linear divisions and unexpected dark or bright patches…Her [collage technique] is almost a Mondrian technique but with a paler palette and added texture.” Rachel Mullen of the Daily Record, Morris County, observes the following about her practice, “There is a wonderful rough physicality to her paint, and her color is an amalgam of exuberance and serenity.”
Born in Buffalo, NY in 1930, Goldsmith was raised in both New York state and Birmingham, AL. She attended the all-women’s Methodist junior college Sullins Academy in Bristol, VA and earned her B.A. from Moore Institute of Art in Philadelphia, PA. She also held a Certificate of Art from the Modern School of Fashion and Design in Boston, MA.
From 1950-1956, the artist pursued a career in fashion and worked as a shoe designer in New York City. Goldsmith returned to art in 1963 and began attending seminars at Fairleigh Dickenson University where she studied with eminent instructors like Adolph Konrad (who greatly influenced her color), Manny Solomon (who likened her work to Milton Avery), Alan Goldstein (a great champion of her work) and Jochen Seidel. Throughout the mid-to-late 60s, Goldsmith began exhibiting widely in group shows at notable regional venues like Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey State Museum and Newark Public Library. By 1973 she secured her first solo show at Sandoz Corp in Princeton NJ and soon after began showing at national venues, including Museum of Modern Art Library, New York, NY; Newark Museum Library, Newark, NJ; Glass Gallery, New York, NY; Haller Gallery, New York, NY; Kathryn Markel Gallery, New York, NY; Phoenix Gallery, New York, NY; Livingston Art Association, Livingston, NJ; Morris Gallery, Madison, NJ; Roseland Women’s Club, Roseland, NJ; and Gallery 100, Princeton, NJ.
From 1978-1989, Goldsmith was a faculty member at the New Jersey Center for Visual Arts in Summit where she taught and lectured; from 1990-1993 she served on the faculty for the Arts Workshop at the Newark Museum. As Goldsmith transitioned into mid-career, she was featured in an annual volume of a limited-edition artist book titled Editions, a collaborative project founded in 1989 by a group of prominent New Jersey women artists. The Editions books have since been collected by The Museum of Modern Art, The Newark Museum, The Newark Public Library and have been exhibited at The New Jersey Center for Visual Arts, The Palmer Museum and The Newark Museum.
In 1993 Goldsmith embarked upon an artist residency at the Newark Museum where she produced a groundbreaking body of work, The Folly of Vanity, composed of found objects and broken mirrors. The shards of glass invoked a quote that had been pinned to her studio wall for years from Australian feminist writer Germaine Greer: “Only when a woman ceases the fretful struggle to be beautiful can she turn her gaze outward, find the beautiful and feed upon it.” These two elements inspired Goldsmith to gaze outward, rather than toward her aging self. She teased out this notion by joining elements from old and new canvases, prints, wax and wood. During her residency she also produced a series of layered canvases, which were an amalgam of monoprints, handmade papers, torn paintings and mixed media collage on canvas. Each piece was then soaked, blotted, glued and rolled, and topped off with several coats of varnish.
Goldsmith stated about her Women in Boxes series:
“Many portals are still closed to women, yet countless have been opened during the last 100 years. These sculptures tell that story by inviting the viewer to leave the chaos of the man-made world, and to be transported into the sensuous view of the woman’s search to know herself. I believe that art should inform and transport the viewer, just as it does the artist. I am moved both by the mysterious beauty of women and their attempt to realize their own identity in a man’s world.”
Goldsmith’s later work pivots away from the canvas toward the three-dimensional realm. Using clay figures, found objects and wooden boxes, the artist created a series titled Women in Boxes (2002) that addressed feminist and identity issues. With potent titles like “Reptile in Repose” and “Who Am I”, the pieces became icons of Goldsmith’s raw emotion and support for women.
Over the course of her lifetime, Goldsmith received over 30 awards for her oil paintings, including the Purchase Award from the Art Center of the Oranges, NJ; First Prize from the New Jersey Annual State Exhibition; First Prize from the Art Gallery of South Orange-Maplewood and First Prize for Drawing in from the Summit Art Center. Goldsmith is also featured in over 50 private and private collections, including Museum of Modern Art Library, New York, NY; Newark Museum Library, Newark, NJ; Newark Public Library, Newark, NJ; Ernst and Young, New York, NY; Morris Museum of Arts and Sciences, Morristown, NJ; Johnson & Johnson Inc., Piscataway, NJ; Midlantic National Bank, East Orange, NJ; General Plastics Corporation, Bloomfield, NJ and Berg Enterprises, Forest Hills, NY.
Authored by: Heather Zises, Director of Communications