The Jesuit Dallas Museum recently acquired a six-foot long “Red Tiger Shark” sculpture by artist Shawn Smith. The piece comes as a result of a donated gift to the museum on behalf of the Aloysius Gonzaga Society in memory of Father Charles A. Leininger, S.J.

Father Leininger, S.J. was an artist and art historian who served as a trustee of the Jesuit Dallas Museum, taught Latin and English and was instrumental in acquiring many of the museum’s sculptures. Smith’s “Red Tiger Shark” was selected to join the museum by the Acquisitions Committee and is on display, suspended from the ceiling, in the entrance to the Hall of Honors.

“My work investigates the slippery intersection between the digital world and reality,” Smith says in his artist’s statement about the piece. “Specifically, I am interested in how we experience nature through technology. I grew up in a large city only experiencing the natural world through computers and television screens. With my work, I create three-dimensional sculptural representations of two-dimensional images of nature I find online.”

“Red Tiger Shark” is made of plywood, ink and acrylic paint in a variation of red hues, altogether creating a sort of cubist, pixelated appearance made up of smaller, handcrafted colored strips of wood. 

“I build my objects pixel by pixel in an overtly laborious process,” Smith continues. “Through this process of pixelation, details become distilled, distorted, or deleted. I am interested in how each pixel plays an important role in the identity of the object, the same way each cell plays a crucial role in the identity of an organism. As species decline and fade into memory, so many animals and organisms now have a stronger presence in the digital world than in the natural world.”

Smith was born in Dallas and attended Arts Magnet High School and Brookhaven College. In 1996, Smith was a recipient of the Clare Hart DeGolyer grant from the Dallas Museum of Art. His work is in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington DC, the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Explora Science Museum in Albuquerque, NM, and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, and has exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad.