Catherine Bell Smith

Photo credit: Caroline Kraus
Photo credit: Caroline Kraus

Life in the Balance

kayak, black locust seedpods, glass beads, wire

15′ x 13.5′ x 5′




Catherine Bell Smith is a studio artist living and working in Columbus, Ohio. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture from Ohio State University and her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Bowling Green State University. Primarily an installation artist, Catherine considers sculpture, painting, and drawing essential elements in her process of linking natural and man-made substances and creating metaphor and story. Her use of degradable materials is unconventional and raises the question of what is valued, over-looked, or even eradicated in our lives. At the core of Catherine’s work is the search for connections that enhance our understanding of the world around us.



Life in the Balance is a large-scale installation involving repurposed, natural, and new materials. The concept was born out of a deep, personal grief over the suicide of a close family member and has developed into a pivotal piece about acts of passion, loss, understanding, forgiveness, compassion, and finding an anchor and a peaceful balance.

The reclaimed kayak that hangs suspended 15 feet above the floor and lead wheel weights become the support and anchors for over 400 Black Locust seedpods and 5,000 glass beads, strung on 7,500 feet of fine wire. The reference to water, being above and below the surface, touches on the concept of beginnings and endings, safety and peril. There is a subtle reference to Catholicism in that the beads, or air bubbles, are set in the cadence of a rosary and bisect the installation forming a cross. The circle of sky blue sand, sprinkled with incense, and centered below the piece is iconic and eternal.

This installation signals a departure from the more personal search for usefulness and value in life-past-its-prime of my older work and begins to address the larger social issue of marginalized people. This is the drumbeat that has been hounding me, inspiring me to speak visually about issues that need more volume in order for them to warrant our attention and keep the discussion relevant.