Craig Smyres is a painter, a photographer, a writer and a sculptor. He works in clay, wood, paint, ink, bronze, glass and steel. Craig says, “Sometimes my art is spontaneous, created without preconceptions. Sometimes my art is created to fulfill an idea.”
His art installation, Autolust began as a spontaneous ceramic sculpture that morphed into an awestruck figure—half woman, half car. He says thatmcarwoman inspired a vision of industrial art about the “behavior of global warming. It’s a multimedia installation that explores why we destroy our own planet.”
Made mostly of bronze, about 1,000 lbs. and 100 pieces together are autolust. His novel, The Timbers Were Hewn, tells a similar tale with words and prints. His latest art is more whimsical and unplanned.
As a child, Craig lived near San Francisco and on a gold mine deep in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. He says, “in San Francisco I saw Haight-Ashbury and felt the buoyant energy.” Some hippies left that Summer of Love to form communes in the forests around the gold mine. Back then, hippies inspired in him a desire to live in a creative community. Those communes that he saw soon faded away, they were unsustainable.
Craig moved to the Nevada desert and became an artist. In Reno he grew up into a different sort of creative community. He says, “here every artist is welcome but we don’t live together and we don’t grow our own food, it’s a village that assembles around art—it dissolves and reforms at galleries, happenings and whatnots. I’ve long felt ensconced in it’s embrace.”
Even so, he remembered the communes of his childhood dreams. He saw no reasonable path to anything vaguely like that.
When Artspace came to town, he signed up. He’s lived in the Riverside Artists Lofts since it opened in November, 2000. Built in 1927, the Riverside Hotel was for decades the grandest hotel in Reno. Left abandoned, the old hotel was renovated into spacious live work lofts. He says, “here, we have always worked at having a real community; tears sometimes but mostly feelings of, like, belonging.” At the Riverside Artist Lofts, neighbors meet, collaborate, and talk art at an easel or a kitchen table or over a pint on the restaurant patio down stairs. Here is a stable art community where the price of security is the price of rent.
“These years have been better than a dream come true. It’s better than anything I could imagine. I did my part to help get funding from the housing authority, money that went toward the finance package for the renovation but, mostly, my dream was handed to me,” says Craig. He says he’s a small piece of what makes the Riverside a strong community of artists. “In the beginning, Will Law and the members on my art panel asked me to help build a community. They asked everyone that. We still ask everybody that. Everybody here does something toward binding us together. Artspace created the environment for us to live and work in. They make art and community our mission.”
When Craig was a little boy he rubbed the lucky toe of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.