Issue 6
Tuesday, 07 August 2018
Charles Darwin University
Henry Smith and his latest kinetic sculpture share a smile with the world
Henry Smith and his latest kinetic sculpture share a smile with the world

Art teacher puts a smile on the dial

By Patrick Nelson

A brief moment 50 years ago when a little girl with big brown eyes smiled at a “delivery boy” was the genesis for artist Henry Smith’s latest creation, which is on display at the Araluen Gallery in Alice Springs.

The Charles Darwin University art teacher’s “smile machine” is clearly one of the more ambitious entrants in the Advocate Art Award this year.

“Folly for Smile is a mechanical interactive kinetic sculpture with therapeutic benefits,” Henry said … with a smile.

“A smile is universal; it crosses all cultures and barriers, and it’s obvious what it means.”

He said the machine had been a long time in the making.

“When I was a student in Melbourne about 50 years ago I had a job delivering beer and wine to homes in the suburbs. One particular day as I delivered a dozen bottles of beer to some Italian folks at a house in Brunswick, their little girl, maybe just four years old, greeted me with the biggest, warmest smile. And I’ve never forgotten.”

Henry said he’d been working on the idea of a smile machine for a long time.

“I wanted it to be a bit theatrical and it had to have an element of surprise. Then there were the mechanical, visual and practical elements to take into consideration.”

Viewers activate the machine by drawing down on a knob that is connected by cord to a set of painted wooden panels, which produce a smile when drawn together.

Fellow CDU art teacher Suzi Lyon, several graduates and colleague Dr Al Strangeways also have work in the popular annual competition. Dr Strangeways won the “faces” section with an oil-on-canvas portrait of a camel.