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“I’m very impressed by how she came out. I feel slightly more scarred by the experience,” says Smith, who also grew up in a creative community — her father was the well-known sculptor Tony Smith. “She had remarkable parenting. You can see she comes from a very loving, strong family that paid a lot of attention to her, and it shows in how poised she is as a person.”
Clemente always loved storytelling, and at age 12 asked her parents for a Sony High 8 video camera. After graduating from Dalton in 1996, she headed to film school at the Pasadena Art Center and then moved to Rome, where she made a series of art documentaries for the Italian Rai Sat Art Channel, on subjects like Frank Gehry and Brice Marden. In 2002, she directed “Three Worlds: A Portrait of Francesco Clemente,” a documentary about her father.
Though she seems at ease with her illustrious lineage, Clemente hasn’t always escaped the judgment that can accompany it. While she was at Pasadena, her father had a large retrospective at the Guggenheim, a show that temporarily broke her initial campus anonymity.
“Literally, I had someone say, ‘Oh, I just found out who your dad is. Wow, this really changes how I’ve seen you for the past year,’ ” she relates, still incredulous.
“People have expectations of you that have nothing to do with you and that can be quite complicated,” says her good friend Poppy de Villeneuve, whose father, Justin de Villeneuve, was a famous photographer in London in the Sixties. “You have to work double hard to be taken seriously.”
In Clemente’s case, escaping New York was a necessary step in gaining that sense of independence.
“It’s such an electric city, and in that way it can either fry you or feed you. Doing this film and seeing these artists and how they really felt about the city made me really connect with that side of it,” she explains. “It took me four years in Rome to realize that I was actually more of a New Yorker than I wanted to believe.”