The famous Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” begins with the lines, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, / And sorry I could not travel both.” The poem sets up a dichotomy that many believe to be true — if I travel down this road, it is the only way for me. Growing up in Oxford, AL, artist and gallery owner Christie Smith felt her choice from a young age was to follow the athletic path.
Smith was a gifted athlete and accepted a scholarship from a college in northern Alabama, where she played basketball and softball. An injury waylaid her, and she started playing golf, quickly excelling in this new sport. She then attended Methodist College in Fayetteville, NC, majoring in professional golf management. She also played golf for Methodist and was a part of three golf championships during her college years. She enjoyed a successful 23-year career in the LPGA, but the thought of becoming an artist and exploring her creative mind was always with her.
When she retired from the LPGA at the end of 2012, she embraced that yearning to enter the creative sphere.
“I took an indirect path to get here but as a kid, I was always creative. Creativity has always been incorporated into my life. My golf career allowed me to be creative yet disciplined,” says Smith. “My dream has always been to be creative in some capacity.
Today, Smith is not only an artist with specialties in photography, printmaking, and studio art, but she is also the owner of Unleashed Art Gallery in Laguna Beach, CA. This is an unusual combination — most artists do not want to deal with the business side — but Smith has the discipline and desire to navigate both roles. She is generous as a gallery owner and inventive as an artist.
“The path I took to becoming an artist helped me because I learned how to have structure first,” she says. “This allows me to be a successful artist because I feel like I have trained my whole life to be both an artist and a business owner.”
Smith has an impressive range. She’s created a stunning collection of seascape photos capturing the essence of the ocean most people do not see. Her abstract paintings pop and flash like the work in Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf. Her latest series, Satisfaction, takes 1970s work from rock photographer David Stratford. She manipulates the photos with resins and metal glitter flakes, producing a series of pieces that show a young Mick Jagger in dazzling colors and textures. Smith will even customize the pieces for size and color combinations. She also creates gorgeous hearts made of resin and wood, about the size of a dinner plate, with serene ocean-and-sky scenes.
Heart is paramount to Smith’s work and life. She is a woman filled with gratitude who shares her time and expertise with others. Smith worked with young golfers when she was in the LPGA and now collaborates and consults with other artists. She moved her gallery from Half Moon Bay to Laguna Beach in July during Covid. Despite the shutdown, she continued to create her own art and worked virtually with others.
“Human beings are very resilient. We can adjust to our environment. It’s been shown through history. It takes time but no matter what happens there is a resiliency that human beings have,” she says. “I adjusted to the current environment quickly by contacting my clients directly. I started hosting virtual showings of my gallery.”
Smith encourages people to pursue their passions, sojourn with nature, and not fear emotion.
“I think that with everything that is going on we are all focused on fear and anxieties,” she says. “Love out loud! Loving out loud raises your vibration. You are opening up your heart. You are not fearful about the world or what that means. You are living in the present. You are not holding back.”