Tag Archives: baboon

Hotel / Pizza / Text

I rarely use text in my paintings, but it’s something I may get into. With resistance a prevalent theme, I’ve been considering how to make my portraits more overtly political. Text is probably the easiest way to get a point across.

Last summer, I was asked to paint actress and singer Francoise Hardy, so I found a photo I found of her outside the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. I tend to use photos as starting points, and not necessarily to paint a likeness. This wasn’t a commission, so I felt free to paint the subject the way I normally do. Without slavishly representing her features.

I noticed that putting the subject in front of a hotel sign suggested certain things about the women I painted. I wasn’t convinced that everyone would know it was the Chelsea Hotel where artists, musicians and other creative types lived and congregated, so I changed the iconic hotel sign to a pizza sign — and suddenly it felt like the subject had moved from the hotel to the pizza parlor. Or perhaps there were different women outside both locations.

Because I post my work immediately after I paint it, there is a kind of sequential element built into it. I noticed that added text suggested a possible narrative — at least it did to me.

I’d already painted a few baboons without text when I decided to paint one with the pizza sign. The baboon reminded me of King Kong — perhaps because the Chelsea Hotel sign placed the action in New York. Now, instead of being concerned that the women might be regarded as sex workers, I was worried King Kong was going to grab one of them and carry her up the Empire State Building.

I painted the last one in the series to indicate that the baboon did not harm the subject(s). I’m pretty sure I was the only person caught up in my halting narrative, but adding text to my otherwise language-free portraits was a surprisingly power experience.


“No Hat #104” SOLD


“No Hat #105”


“No Hat #106”


“No Hat #107”


“Baboon #3” SOLD


“No Hat #109”


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Slide Show


CLICK any image to launch SLIDE SHOW

Larger images and purchasing details: $100 USD Paintings Currently Available 

“The $100 painting series all started with The Hat in January, 2016. I posted the first one on my FaceBook page and it sold that same day. Hours later, someone was offering me money in advance for the next one! Since then, paintings in this series have been purchased by instructors from the Yale School of Art, the University of British Columbia and the Art Institute of Chicago, painters whose work has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Biennial, 2014 in New York City, and by art critics for Artfourm Magazine and the Winnipeg Free Press – as well as a few indie rock luminaries.” – Jean Smith, August, 2016

11 x 14″ acrylics, $100 USD plus shipping ($10 USD to USA and Canada, $15 USD to Europe). Please contact me for shipping cost to other locations.

From most recent to oldest (February, 2016)

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All content on this website (C) Jean Smith, 2017

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Hotel // Pizza

I’m not a big fan of putting text into paintings, but doing so has made this current section – the “hotel” section – of the ongoing $100 USD series seem somewhat sequential.

When I first added the hotel sign I wondered if viewers might jump to the equation “woman + hotel = prostitute” and so, I was thinking about that as I painted and posted them. I’m not accusing anyone else of coming up with that, but I know I did. In that sense, the “hotel” paintings became political as I pondered the existing overarching urge to lump women into sexualized situations – and, in my case, to wonder if that was happening to images I generate.

For many women, their sense of responsibility to not give the wrong impression manifests every time we get ready to leave the house, to go out in public.

“Where on the broad scale of sexualization do I want to place myself today?”
“Am I attracting the wrong / right kind of attention?”
“Will I be giving him / them the wrong / right idea?”
Basically – “Do I look (too much) like a hooker?”

The “hotel” signs are versions of the Chelsea Hotel / Hotel Chelsea sign in New York, implying that the women are poets, painters, musicians – artists of some kind. Not hookers. I don’t expect the sign to do that job though. The paintings are more about the nature of assuming a sexual premise.

When the baboon arrived, things started getting sequential. Up until that point, the paintings – all 200 of them – have seemed like individual takes that I exhibit one after another on FB as they are completed as opposed to all together in a RL gallery.

In my mind, the sequential sensibility of an ultra slow-moving, not necessarily linear feel of a graphic novel arrived with the inclusion of text and the positioning of the baboon in front of a “pizza” sign that resembles the “hotel” sign. To me, the baboon (a “he” it seems) appears to be in the vicinity of the hotel on that same night. For this “story” I’m not overly concerned about beginning, middle and end. It’s more Hopper than Spiegelman. More about unique interpretations of a possible story told across many frames over a long time than Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” story for instance. I say Edward Hopper because he visually chronicled scenes with people that stand alone, but, as they amassed over time, also suggest broader stories within an era. There may even be one story there. Much of Hopper’s oeuvre (can’t believe I’m using this word… doh) feels like a hypothetical (non-existent) Raymond Carver set of short stories about various characters settling into short-lived, but highly-nuanced in-between states of reflection and waiting before and / or after action.

I’d done a few baboons when I started the “hotel” paintings and when I did “Baboon #3” (below) I was going to add a “hotel” sign, but that seemed to imply that the crazy baboon might pose a threat to the women who had been standing in the same spot. So I made it a pizza sign and followed up with a woman in that same spot. As if to say, she was there after the baboon.

Where is the baboon now? Where are the women? Are the women in danger because they are women and because the baboon is a baboon and there is a hotel and pizza? Are the women frightened, hiding in the hotel? Or on the streets, hungry for pizza?

And now the fox (who I want only to be “Not Baboon”) seems to be playing a role, turning it into a fable of sorts: clever as a fox or like a fox guarding the hen house?

I have at least two more “hotel” paintings coming up – both of women – but the baboon may finally appear outside the hotel too.

Did anyone else get a sequential thing happening? Or maybe I just like the word sequential. Perhaps I’ve said too much!
















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3 for $275 // 5 for $460!

That is to say, multiples above 3 are also on sale at $92 each ($275 divided by 3 = $92) on paintings prior to November. Take a look at paintings currently available here.

A savvy San Francisco business owner bought these 5 and took advantage of FREE shipping in November.


“The Hat #37”

41 e
“The Hat #41”
Blowing Curtain 800
“Blowing Curtain”
Empty Table 800

“Empty Table”


“Baboon #3”

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100th painting sold


“Baboon #2” is the 100th painting sold!

See all paintings that have sold here. Paintings currently available are here.

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