At the intersection of art and advertisement, the collage works of artist Anderson Smith embrace sexuality and provoke the viewer’s ideas of fashion, luxury brands, advertising, and the human form. A fashion and product photographer by trade, Smith is well acquainted with commercial brands that often utilize sexuality and the female form to sell their goods. Inundated by advertisements in fashion magazines and inspired by a love for the narrative of classic cinema, he has developed a body of mixed media work that has captured the attention of celebrities and earned him representation at several local galleries. 

Anderson Smith in his studio space at Buckhead Art & Company in Buckhead Village. (Isadora Pennington)

One piece on display features words cut out from magazines that command and empower their audience. “People love whatever you do, own your content. Look at me now boss,” it says. Surrounding these words are an array of body parts. An oversized woman’s face with eyes covered by metal sits atop a seated nude figure. Four legs sprout beneath the body, each sporting high heels. Peeking out behind the head is a portion of the Statue of Liberty’s green crown. 

“It’s beautiful chaos,” Smith says when asked what inspires his work. “There is chaos in beauty and there is beauty in chaos. And that’s the world we live in.” His collages embody a degree of controlled wildness in the way they incorporate images that were intended to depict refined culture and style. Smith’s pieces are composed not just of paper, but also acrylic paint, spray paint, pigments, resin, and gel mediums. Another piece laying nearby features a young Michael Jackson peeking out from inside a denim pocket while a nude woman’s figure opposite appears to be gazing up at the scene. The piece is mostly dark with splashes of color that shine through. Across the image are a variety of spray painted Louis Vuitton logos. 

“I was really never a safe photographer and I’m really not a safe artist,” Smith explains. ‘If you look at fashion labels like Louis Vuitton there is a lot of provocation in their brand and how they display their products.” 

He says his goal is to spark conversation for his audience and asserts that it is not for him to interpret his art, rather for his viewers to render a judgment about what the message might be. His works embrace the looseness of sexuality in European art and media while touching on the consumable quality of nudity and how it is used in fashion and marketing. These pieces bring to the forefront elements that are often intended to be used subtly. By combining different figures and blocking out body parts like eyes or exaggerating certain sexualized features, he asks the viewer to consider a deeper message behind the characters put forth in fashion and advertising.

While the composition of many of Smith’s collages may at first look appear to be arranged at random, his creative process is actually much more methodical. “It’s very intentional, very methodical. It’s like putting together a puzzle. It can start with just one image, and that image just starts the whole idea,” he says.

The large-scale pieces offer not only composition from afar, but also hidden messages, words, and plays on words that draw you in for a closer look. The perceptive viewer can also find certain recurring celebrity characters in the mix, such as Marilyn Monroe, David Bowie, Fred Astaire, Karl Lagerfeld and Grace Jones.

A detail of one of Anderson Smith’s collage artworks. (Isadora Pennington)

Originally from the South Side neighborhood of Chicago, Smith moved to Atlanta 21 years ago. He has lived in Buckhead for the last 11 years. His father was a photographer but the arts never really interested Smith as a young man, instead focusing on athletics. It was ultimately his love of cinema that inspired him to pick up a camera, make films, and later begin his photography career.

Known for his fashion and product photography, his client work often brings him to places like Miami where he photographs perfectly composed images highlighting swimsuits and chic poolside scenes. In contrast to the energy seen in his collage work, these photographs embody a stillness and symmetry that lends itself well to the products on display. 

It was around 10 years ago that Smith first started exhibiting his collage work, which originated as a hobby he did in his spare time. In the years since he has garnered attention, gallery representation, and even landed some of his pieces in local rapper T.I.’s home. Smith and the rapper had been at many of the same events, including one at the Clermont Hotel in 2019 which included some of Smith’s collages on display. Ultimately, it was interactions through Instagram that put the two in touch and facilitated the conversation and eventual purchase of several works. 

Today, Smith can often be found working in the Buckhead Art & Company studio in Buckhead Village. He has been represented by Buckhead Art & Company for several years, and says it feels like he found a home there with owner Katie Jones. Behind the plate glass windows and in the shadow of a multitude of works by other renowned artists, Smith diligently works on his compositions. Surrounded by stacks of magazines, buckets of paint, blades and brushes, he creates his cheeky and provocative collages.  

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.