Michael Smith: Excuse Me... I’m looking for the Fountain of Youth



For over thirty-five years, Michael Smith explored American culture's tragicomic qualities through the lens of his performance personae “Mike,” a quintessential Everyman. In live performances, television, puppet shows, video, photography, installations, and drawings, Smith and his alter-ego have echoed popular culture and mass media in ways that are both wry and profound.

For this exhibition, Smith took up the theme of aging, an obsession in our youth-oriented culture, stereotypically associated with Florida as a haven for retirees. In a series of photographs, Smith’s “Mike” is a hapless tourist trying to navigate the Fountain of Youth State Archeological Park in Saint Augustine, Florida, a city founded in 1565.

After visiting the old world in St. Augustine, he moves on to KidZania, a child-oriented theme park, to see what is new with today's youth. The installation also featured a video of a ballet choreographed by Stephen Mills, with sound by Mayo Thompson, and performed by apprentices from Ballet Austin, in which “Mike” tries to keep up with the contemporary moves of the young dancers. Another video shows “Mike” searching his pockets for glasses, keys, and earbuds in a one-person lost-and-found.

The entire exhibition had the ambiance of a medieval hall with its tapestry about the Fountain of Youth legend and a series of hanging pennants with patterns from the memory game, Sudoku.

Smith’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as many other international venues. He recently created a tattoo studio serving clients over 65 for the prestigious once-in-a-decade exhibition, Münster Sculpture Project.