AVOIDING THE TOE TAGS 771-A, silver brooch, 6.25 x 9.4 x 2.5 centimeters. Photographs by Tony Cunha.
 

 

Carolyn L. E. Benesh   
 

 

ot too far in the distance, from her home, major freeways form the transportation arteries that connect the greater Los Angeles area to its disparate parts. Even closer resides the California State University, Fullerton campus, some thirty thousand students and administration strong, where Christina Smith is assistant professor of three-dimensional design and all levels of jewelry and metalsmithing. It is extremely difficult to conceive that this land once grew so much abundant fruit on citrus farms spread over thousands and thousands of acres or were filled with the lovely vineyards that served California's nascent wine industry. Greater Los Angeles, not that long ago, was an area of great and important agriculture. This disjunct lingers in the memories of those who have lived here over time and who still have a deep sense of place and community; their vivid recollections not yet throttled by the oppressive realities of modern Southern California life.

Within a healthy walking distance of the university campus is the quiet tree-lined neighborhood that forms the other part of the

arc of Smith's daily regime. Her home is sheltered from the overly bright California sun by the perhaps perennially verdant trees, casting their shifting shadows over families, arriving and leaving, as they are born, mature, become frail with age, and die. It is a house made personal by its artworks, a piano, fly fishing equipment (one of Smith's passions), and yes, the family dog.

But it is beyond the backyard garden, where a separate building is located, that another kind of life takes place. It is here that artist Smith makes her jewelry and other metalsmithing projects, imagining her peculiarly private landscape-in concert with the other millions simultaneously living their own proprietorial version of the West Coast lifestyle- that of a unique, surprisingly seductive, yet fragile and tenuous, whole made from seemingly dissimilar elements. To survive, one must be ever respectful of the Pacific's strong undercurrent, the riptide personified, of the California dream state, which can finally carry you away, to be drowned in the overwhelming waves of life's vicissitudes.



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