Art. Culture. Life.

Biller on Art: Scholarship Spotlight – Phillip K. Smith III

LQAF Blog | Scholarships 0 Comment

Steven Biller © 2017

Entire Art World Seeing the Lights of LQAF Scholar Phillip K. Smith III’s Work 

philip_cris photo

Photo by Cris Cichocki


About two years ago, Palm Desert-based artist Phillip K. Smith III gained international media attention for reimagining a homestead shack near Joshua Tree, alternating wooden and mirrored beams around the structure and filling the window spaces with multicolored LED lights. Images of Lucid Stead lit up social media, claimed magazine covers, and triggered wide-spanning interest in the 42-year-old artist.


Phillip K. Smith III


The notoriety continued when Goldenvoice, producer of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, better known as “Coachella,” commissioned a large-scale light installation, Reflection Field, which consisted of a two-story-tall rectangle and four mirrored squares that reflected the environment by day and lit up the night with color-progressing LEDs. Again, images of the installation appeared in major print and online media.


But Smith is hardly an overnight success. A graduate of Palm Valley High School, he was a five-time winner of La Quinta Arts Foundation’s scholarship as he attended Rhode Island School of Design. “It was a $1,000 scholarship, and I had to apply for it every year,” he recalls. Phillip K. Smith III“I remember I got the first scholarship with work from high school art class and some drawing classes I was taking on the side at College of the Desert. After that time, I had work from RISD to show. It was nice to have the hometown support being 3,000 miles away in Providence, Rhode Island. The support — all meanings of that word — is important as endorsement and encouragement and to facilitate the risk.”

Phillip K. Smith III


Today Smith and his assistants work in a two-story warehouse studio in Palm Desert, where they realize large-scale commissions as well as a series of smaller works. On Nov. 21, he opens the exhibition Light + Shadow Works, at Royale Projects in downtown Los Angeles. He previewed some of these works in October along with a series of photographs, Lucid Stead Chromatic Variance, at Royale Projects in Palm Desert.


Royale Projects has also exhibited Smith’s art at important fairs, including the recent Volta 11 in Basel, Switzerland.


Smith’s work advances the innovations of the Light and Space pioneers of the late 1960s and ’70s, particularly James Turrell and Robert Irwin. “Being surrounded every day by light phenomenon is absolutely inspiring,” he says. “The idea of interacting with light and the sun is at the root of the first pieces I was making.”Phillip K. Smith III

At the Coachella festival, people interacted with the curious Reflection Field. “If you step up close enough and look straightforward at yourself and the world around you, you are immersed in that color beyond your periphery,” Smith says. “If you hang out here long enough, there’s a moment when your brain begins to question which side you’re on. You know that world: It’s right behind you, or is it in front of you? This kind of immersion is something that I’m very interested in.”


Read more about Phillip K. Smith III at or For scholarship information, visit


Steven Biller is editor of Palm Springs Life ART+CULTURE and a contributing writer for art ltd.

The essays are intended for personal enjoyment. The opinions expressed in content published on the LQAF Sites by Guest Contributors or Bloggers and comments made by the public at large are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the La Quinta Arts Foundation or any employee thereof. La Quinta Arts Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied by Guest Contributors, Bloggers or in comments made by the general public.