Eric Drummond Smith: Where Politics and Art Collide

by Monica Hoel
Dr. Eric Drummond Smith teaches politics at UVA-Wise, and is often called on to offer his pundit skills during an election cycle. But it’s hard to say whether he’s better known for his chops as a political scientist or as a well-known artist.

In December of 2022, his work will be featured at the William King Museum of Art in a show called Big Ugly Hullaballoo – which is also the name of his website. This is not his first exhibit at William King, and a 2017 he was involved in a show titled Cherry Bounce that he not only exhibited in but also juried. That show literally focused on politics in art.

The new show will feature some of his newest work that focuses on a topic for which he has great affection: “I love beautiful ugly things.”

To explain this fascination he references the work of artists like Hieronymus Bosch who painted beautiful scenes of hell and demons and monsters. “When I was a kid I was always attracted to dinosaurs and old Halloween decorations. I’m drawn to things that we’re supposed to think are ugly.”

He recalls that in college, he did a report for Dr. Jim Dawsey. It had to be a biographical report on someone who was important because they cross-referenced two things, and he chose Andreas Vesalias – one of the first people to do very accurate depictions of autopsies and human dissection. “His paintings are beautiful, but grotesque. That’s a lot of life. We’re drawn to the cathedral, but we take pictures of the gargoyles.”

Artwork by Eric Drummond Smith...featuring a King with a Dip Dog from Smyth County's famous roadsid... Artwork by Eric Drummond Smith…featuring a King with a Dip Dog from Smyth County's famous roadside stand.An aspect of Eric’s most recent work includes a central subject surrounded by a cascade of words that surround and enfold the “beautiful ugly” creature at the heart of his creation. The words usually present a narrative, but Eric says he doesn’t actually make a plan for what he’s going to say. “I put on music, and I listen until I am in the right emotional state – then I start writing.” He says he’ll sometimes listen to the same song for several hours to make sure he’s hearing the rhythm and feeling the emotion that he needs to create this frolicking stream of words and thoughts that bring life and backstory to his created characters.

“This is a style of art I’ve been trying to do since high school, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. It was a class in Chinese calligraphy that really helped me let go of my worry about making mistakes. In Chinese calligraphy, it’s not supposed to be perfect – it’s supposed to be real. It’s a lot like improvisational jazz.”

You can visit the William King Museum of Art to see Eric’s work December 29, 2022 through April 30, 2023. And you can enjoy a rousing two-part conversation with Eric about politics and art on the Duck Pond Wall Podcast. Find part one here (on politics) and part two here (on art).

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  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/2227-get-ready-to-recognize-the-college-campus-in-dw"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 3x"/> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 3x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 3x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG" alt="D.W. Saur E&H Class of 2005 Author" width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/870,0,3001,2133/10760_13373_164208764950684.rev.1643394162.JPG 3x" data-max-w="2131" data-max-h="2133" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2227-get-ready-to-recognize-the-college-campus-in-dw">Get Ready to Recognize the College Campus in D.W. Saur’s Latest Book</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> D.W. Saur’s newest book has some familiar locations like “Hillman Hall” and “Van Dyke” – which just makes the storyline that much more impactful. <a href="/live/news/2227-get-ready-to-recognize-the-college-campus-in-dw" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/2340-hannah-long-acquires-books-for-harper-collins"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/582,531,2259,2208/11225_IMG_20211215_180338973.rev.1651854433.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/582,531,2259,2208/11225_IMG_20211215_180338973.rev.1651854433.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/582,531,2259,2208/11225_IMG_20211215_180338973.rev.1651854433.webp 3x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/582,531,2259,2208/11225_IMG_20211215_180338973.rev.1651854433.jpg 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/582,531,2259,2208/11225_IMG_20211215_180338973.rev.1651854433.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/582,531,2259,2208/11225_IMG_20211215_180338973.rev.1651854433.jpg 3x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/582,531,2259,2208/11225_IMG_20211215_180338973.rev.1651854433.jpg" alt="Hannah Long E&H Class of 2018" width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/582,531,2259,2208/11225_IMG_20211215_180338973.rev.1651854433.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/582,531,2259,2208/11225_IMG_20211215_180338973.rev.1651854433.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1677" data-max-h="1677" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2340-hannah-long-acquires-books-for-harper-collins">Hannah Long Acquires Books for Harper Collins</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Hannah is breaking a long family tradition – and the adventure is paying off. <a href="/live/news/2340-hannah-long-acquires-books-for-harper-collins" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/2289-eamph-mass-comm-student-story-emily-bunn"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,382,382/11077_Picture2.rev.1648651634.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,382,382/11077_Picture2.rev.1648651634.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,382,382/11077_Picture2.rev.1648651634.jpg" alt="Austin Bunn E&H Class of 2014" width="345" height="225" data-max-w="382" data-max-h="382" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2289-eamph-mass-comm-student-story-emily-bunn">E&H Mass Comm Student Story: Emily Bunn spotlights Austin Bunn and their shared E&H legacy</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"><em>This is part of a series of stories by members of the 2022 E&H Mass Comm 302 Class.<br/><br/></em>Home is where your family is: and for Austin Bunn (’14) that place was his college. <strong><br/><br/></strong> <a href="/live/news/2289-eamph-mass-comm-student-story-emily-bunn" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/1809-rotary-frolics-heads-to-the-big-screen"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,49,436,485/9814_A_Frolics.rev.1619615774.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,49,436,485/9814_A_Frolics.rev.1619615774.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,49,436,485/9814_A_Frolics.rev.1619615774.jpg" alt="" width="345" height="225" data-max-w="436" data-max-h="436" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/1809-rotary-frolics-heads-to-the-big-screen">Rotary Frolics Heads to the Big Screen!</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Actually, the REALLY big screen, as they perform this year’s annual Rotary Frolics event at the Moonlite Drive-In in Abingdon. <a href="/live/news/1809-rotary-frolics-heads-to-the-big-screen" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>