Born in Detroit, Michigan, Smulka attended The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan on a full scholarship, studying under acclaimed photo realist Chuck Close, among others. He completed graduate school at The University of Massachusetts at Amherst with an MFA. The years after graduation saw the evolution of a minimalist, neo-abstract, expressionist painting style. During this time, the artist moved back to New York City, and had his first show at the Soho Center for the Arts in 1978. Later, during a trip to Italy with his wife Ginny, Smulka had the opportunity to immerse himself in the works of the Italian masters. It was in the aftermath of this experience that he began painting once again in the realist style.
Smulka has garnered international recognition for his distinct approach to Contemporary Realism. While also a renowned figurative artist, Smulka’s signature motif is the meticulous reproduction of oversized glass bottles, jars, and decanters set against backdrops that might include trees, mountains or a rocky coastline. The artist accomplishes a virtual transformation of paint into prism and translucence into reflection and refraction, and the results on canvas are mesmerizing. His work has earned him particular attention from critic J. Bower Bell, who writes, “Each work is lovingly crafted; the treatment of glass profound, mature, the skill, awesome; but it is the light that matters, the light that is somehow transformed by facility of hand and felicity of brush into a compelling icon. This mysterious alchemy of craft, vision and cunning turns paint into light and light into magic.”
Steve Smulka has exhibited in North and South America, Europe, and Japan, is a two-time recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, and has been collected by some of America’s largest corporations. He currently lives and works in New Mexico.