A Synopsis of the Life and Times of Alex Steelsmith
by Laurie Steelsmith
A self-taught artist, Alex Steelsmith began drawing and painting at an early age. His works were shown in art galleries during his teenage years, and have since been widely exhibited and collected. An itinerant artist for many years, he has traveled and lived in various parts of the United States and elsewhere, in his early travels working at odd jobs to support himself and his art while making numerous pilgrimages to art museums in New York, Paris, Rome, Florence, Athens, London, and many other places.
As an avid backpacker and mountain climber, Alex frequently finds inspiration for his art by exploring new landscapes, often covering great distances over mountainous terrain. With his paints in his backpack he has crossed national parks on foot and climbed in major mountain ranges in many parts of the world. In Europe at the height of the Cold War, he crossed the iron curtain and backpacked in the former Soviet bloc. An article written about Alex's art when he was 23 years old estimates that in his travels he had covered some 30,000 miles on land in more than 20 countries, traveling much of the way on foot, hiking and mountaineering. All the while, he continued to hone his craft and develop his own technique.
Alex's works have been seen in numerous juried shows, including seven consecutive annual exhibitions at the Currier Museum of Art, and several invitational exhibitions at the Newport Art Museum. His art has also been exhibited by the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and in many other locations in the U.S., including art shows in Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Seattle, Honolulu, Maui, and elsewhere.
Alex eventually migrated to the Pacific Northwest, then to Hawaii, where his works soon began to reflect the land, the people, and the rich diversity of life found in the islands. After experimenting with traditional printmaking techniques, in the early 1990s he explored the first methods of using digital technology to reproduce works of art. Reproductions of his paintings have been shown by numerous galleries in Hawaii and other areas.
During the course of his career, Alex's works have received many accolades and distinctions. His originals have been purchased by the president of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and other notable collectors. In recent years, Alex achieved an unusual milestone as both an artist and mountain climber: after reaching the summit of Mount McKinley (a.k.a. Denali), the highest point in North America, he completed a painting depicting the view from the summit, and published a limited edition print of the painting.
Since winning an art contest for adults when he was 14 years old, Alex's works have received many awards in juried competitions. Awards include the Gimopolous Trust Award, the DeKalb Memorial Award, the Prescott Award, the New England Clinical Laboratories Award, the Miriam Sawyer Memorial Award, the American Institute of Architects Award for Painting (at the Currier Museum of Art), and the Merchants National Bank Award (from the New Hampshire Institute of Art). His artwork has received separate awards for works in watercolor, pen and ink, acrylic, scratchboard, mixed media, and other techniques, and also for portraiture, landscape, seascape, figurative work, and still life.
In recent years Alex has served as juror for the Association of Hawaii Artists annual exhibition, and his artwork, which has been featured on the covers of publications including the statewide Paradise Pages phone book and Go Kailua magazine, has become familiar to many Hawaii viewers. His paintings have appeared on Hawaii News Now (KGMB and KHNL), Hawaii's Channel 2 TV News (KHON), and in the statewide newspaper; see NEWS. His portraits include a portrayal of the late Senator Daniel Inouye, who posed for Alex toward the end of his life. Pomegranate Communications has published a number of Alex's artworks in the form of greeting cards.
An integral aspect of Alex's career is his fundraising activity for numerous nonprofit groups and charities; over the years his artworks have inspired contributions to a long list of local and international organizations. He has donated proceeds from many of his works to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and other groups supporting people with disabilities. His works have also supported the Baby Hui, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Red Cross, the local Food Drive, The Hawaii Community Foundation, Manoa Valley Theater, and other groups.
For more information on Alex's art, mountain climbing experiences, and fundraising activities, see the ARTICLES and NEWS sections of this website.