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Gary Ernest Smith

Gary Smith was born near Baker, Oregon in 1942. An integral member of the Mormon Art and Belief Movement, he is neoregionalist painter and sculptor of the land and those who care for it. He lives in Highland, Utah.

Smith entered Eastern Oregon College in 1963 and transferred to the College of Fine Arts at Brigham Young University in 1964. His studies were interrupted by military service and, in 1970, he returned to BYU to complete his degree. He received his BFA and MFA from BYU.

Dusk (1985) and Rural Icon (1987) are examples of his work. In 1989, Smith became interested in sculpture. Sweat of the Brow (1989) and Man Lifting Sack (1990) are examples of his bronzes.

Biography adapted from Artists of Utah.

Gary Ernest Smith was born in the rural Eastern Oregon community of Baker, in 1942. He attended Eastern Oregon State College and Brigham Young University, from which he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. He served in the United States Army for two years as an illustrator, and he was on the faculty at B.Y.U. and acted as gallery director for three terms. Smith has been self-employed as an artist since 1972. He and his wife, Judy Asay Smith, have four children and live in the arts community of Highland, Utah.

Gary Smith presents impressive credentials as an artist. Though famous for his paintings, in recent years he has also turned his talents to sculpture. His paintings, some of which depict rural America from the turn of the century to the present, and others, which depict early Utah and Oregon 20th-century life, hang in museums, in private, corporate, and university collections, as well as in churches along the Wasatch front. He is extensively published as an illustrator and has received many major commissions for his paintings and sculptures.

Dr. Vern Swanson, of the Springville Museum of Art, describes Smith as "constantly seeking his ends through stylistic experiment." Smith strives for simple, direct statements that capture the essential character of his subject: icon and image are more important than explicit detail. "Large bold shapes, " Smith says, "with minimal detail, are the substance of my work. Most of the detailing in my pictures is 'implied' rather than painted."

Termed a neo-regionalist, Smith works on the basis of reinterpretation of rural, mid-america themes. While acknowledging the appropriateness of the term, he also feels it's too limiting. As an artist he concentrates on spatial and coloristic solutions, and his themes are often spiritual, though the interpretation is clearly unique in form and style. The subjects of Gary Smith's art lie in three major areas--overt and latent religious subjects, landscapes, and evocations of the rural west, each born from poignant personal experiences in his life.

Smith admits to being a "driven painter" who needs the distractions of his musician wife and his children to rescue him from spending all day in the studio. He attributes this work ethic to his upbringing. With his brothers and father, Smith worked on the family cattle ranch and farm. "Farming is hard work; I didn't want to do that the rest of my life, " he says. " I wanted more. I wanted to be an artist. I had no idea what that entailed-- it was a dream, kind of an unreachable dream."

Gary Smith has obviously reached his dream. "Art is a way of addressing humanity, " Smith says, " and my works attempt to merge ideas and memories." Smith believes, "Good art functions on many levels. There is the surface appeal of subject, and below that are layers that may be peeled off, revealing information about the individual artist and the psychology of his era. There's the subject but there's also the underlying theme."

Smith also says his "... art is a constant struggle for the new insight, for the more effective technique. It is as changing and evolving as life itself. To unite humanity with the earth through art is like combining the body with the spirit."

Theodore F. Wolff, art editor for the Christian Science Monitor, says of Gary Smith,

Few artists today see things whole. Most prefer a sliver of the truth and an art defined by theory, passion or imitation. Not so Gary E. Smith. For him art is expansive and holistic, ideal for sharing what is good, beautiful and true, and the best way to communicate one's deepest beliefs and intuitions.

Gary Smith's recent exhibit, "Fields," at the Springville Museum of Art, centers on eight large canvases (he has since added to the suite) that show fields in various seasons and stages--one is of plowed ground with a dusting of snow, another of a harvested field with a few scattered bales of hay, and another has furrows echoing the contours of the rolling hills. At the opening for the exhibit, Smith asked for a response to his pieces. One individual said "I think you feel the same way about the land I do, but most people overlook over such kinds of beauty and never see it." Smith agreed that most people don't see empty fields as beautiful, and says that is why he painted these. And it's working, he says; people have come in (to the show) and looked around for a while and then come up to him to tell him about a field he needs to see--their eyes have been opened.

That personal insight Smith struggles to attain and to share has successfully expanded to encompass the viewers of his paintings. Careful observers walk away from his paintings with a broader, more appreciative view of beauty and of the goodness of the earth and the people who work it, and of this artist, who paints it.

Biography courtesy the Springville Museum of Art.

Newspaper Articles

"72nd Utah Spring Salon: On Springville Art Exhibition Includes a Dazzling Array of First-rate Utah Creativity." The Deseret News, April 28, 1996.

"A Weekend in the Park With Sculpture." The Salt Lake Tribune, June 11, 2000.

"Art Canvass." The Deseret News, June 3, 2001.

"Art Canvass." The Deseret News, November 5, 2000.

"Art Canvass." The Deseret News, September 25, 1998.

"Artist Captures Magic of Fields and Farmers." The Deseret News, December 31, 2000.

"Art Circles Know Southern Utah Frame Shop can Shape and Ship any Masterpieces." The Salt Lake Tribune, March 22, 1992.

"Art Contest Deadline is Sept. 22." The Deseret News, August 17, 2000.

"Art Notes: Museum of Fine Arts Shows Objects from Philanthropists' Home." The Salt Lake Tribune, July 14, 1991.

"Art Notes: Benefit Auction Slated this Week." The Salt Lake Tribune, October 7, 1990.

"Art Scene: Utah Spring Salon's 67th edition welcomes new artists." The Salt Lake Tribune, April 21, 1991.

"Artistic Influence: Six artists come together for a show at B.Y.U." The Deseret News, May 25, 2003.

"Artists Showing in Homage to Dixon." The Deseret News, November 25, 2001.

"Arts Event will Harvest Funds for L.D.S. Hospital." The Deseret News, October 13, 1996.

"Color, Space In Smith's Rural West." The Salt Lake Tribune, September 22, 2002.

"Covering the Mainstream From Off the Beaten Path." The Salt Lake Tribune, July 9, 2000.

"Cultural Corner." The Deseret News, February 24, 2002.

"Days of '47 Art Show rides into Fairpark starting Saturday." The Deseret News, July 17, 1997.

"Fields and fundamentals." The Deseret News, November 16, 1997.

"Fields: Gary Ernest Smith." The Deseret News, December 17, 1995.

"Frederic Remington's "Bronco Buster" on display at gallery. Whoopi Ti Yi Yo! Hippodrome Exhibit has Art, Toy --and Roy Rogers."The Salt Lake Tribune, April 24, 1994.

"Gifts of Art That Say 'Happy Holidays'." The Salt Lake Tribune, November 28, 1999.

"'Holding Ground' Digs Deep into Soil, People who Work it -Book uses Text and Paintings to Pursue 'Common' Places." The Deseret News, November 17, 1999.

"It's In With the Traditional At the Springville Salon." The Salt Lake Tribune, May 21, 2000.

"Landscape entries about to be judged." The Deseret News, September 25, 2000.

"Letters from a master artist." The Deseret News, November 25, 2001.

"Man of Steel is Larger than Life –Just Like Utah-Made Bronze Likeness." The Salt Lake Tribune, May 21, 1993.

"Mormon Arts event is March 25-28 in St. George." The Deseret News, February 10, 1998.

"New Salt Lake Gallery to Celebrate 'The Promise of Spring'." The Salt Lake Tribune, April 19, 2001.

"New West." The Salt Lake Tribune, June 13, 1999.

"No Sign of Silicon Valley in Smith's Rural Art." The Salt Lake Tribune, December 10, 1995. "Utah Marquee: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, October 24, 1997.

"No Sign of Silicon Valley in Smith's Rural Art." The Salt Lake Tribune, December 1, 1995.

"Rites of Spring Salon." The Deseret News, May 7, 2000.

"Sculpting in bronze." The Deseret News, October 25, 1998.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, July 6, 2003.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, June 29, 2003.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, June 22, 2003.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, June 15, 2003.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, June 8, 2003.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, June 1, 2003.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, May 25, 2003.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, May 18, 2003.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, May 11, 2003.

"Showing at Local Galleries." The Deseret News, May 4, 2003.

"Soviet Art Display Administers A Strong Dose of Realism." The Salt Lake Tribune, January 15, 1992.

"Spring Salon award winners." The Deseret News, May 7, 2000.

"Superman to Head for Metropolis." The Deseret News, March 6, 1993.

"The year in arts." The Deseret News, December 28, 1997.

"Utah Marquee: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, September 26, 1997.

"Utah Marquee: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, September 5, 1997.

"Utah Marquee: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, August 29, 1997.

"Utah Marquee: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, August 22, 1997.

"Utah Marquee: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, May 17, 1996.

"Utah Sculptor and Lehi Foundary Cast Supersized Statue of the Late Superhero." The Salt Lake Tribune, March 10, 1993.

"Utah Painting and Sculpture." The Deseret News, December 21, 1997.

"Utahns' Works on Display." The Deseret News, June 1, 2003.

"Western Painter Lets Imagination be one of his Brushes." Seattle Times, July 23, 1989.

"What Do Steve Bochco, Mahonri Young Have in Common?" The Salt Lake Tribune, October 24, 1999.


Duerr and Tierney. Art of the West, 2001 guidebook of Western artists. Minnetonka, MN: Duerr and Tierney, 2001.

Dunbier, Lonnie, ed. The Artists Bluebook. Scottsdale, AZ: Ask Art.com, 2001.

Hagerty, Donald J. Gary Ernest Smith. Holding Ground: The Art of Gary Ernest Smith. Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Pub., 1999.

Lehman, Lewis Barrett. Being An Artist. Cincinnati, OH: North Light Books 1992.

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Oman, Richard G., and Robert O. Davis. Images of Faith: Art of the Latter-Day Saints. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1995.

Reinhardt, Lisa. Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide 2001/2002. Phoenix, AZ: Gordon's Art Reference, 2000.

Smith, Gary Ernest. American Icons: The Art of Neo-Regionalist Gary Ernest Smith. Scottsdale, AZ: Overland Gallery of Fine Art, 1994.

Smith, Gary Ernest. Form, Color, Symbol: the Art of Gary E. Smith. S.l.: R.E. Johnson, 1988.

Smith, Gary Ernest. Journey in Search of Lost Images: Neo-Regionalist Gary Ernest Smith. S.l.: R.E. Johnson, 1989.

Smith, Gary Ernest. Just Beyond the Merging of Mind & Memory: the Art of Neo-Regionalist Gary Ernest Smith. Scottsdale, AZ: Overland Gallery of Fine Art, 1995.

Southwest Art. Master Index of Artists & Articles Published in Southwest Art 1971-1993. Boulder, CO: Southwest Art, l993.

Southwest Art. The Red Book Price Guide to Western Art. Houston, TX: Cowles Enthusiast Media, l993.

Swanson Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, Donna Poulton, and Janie L. Rogers. 150 Year Survey Utah Art & Artists. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2002.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Art. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publishing Co, 1991.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Painting and Sculpture. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1997.


15 Bytes. "300 Plates: The First Annual Art Access Fundraiser & Exhibition." 15 Bytes, http://www.artistsofutah.org/newsletter/03may/page4.html (accessed August 11, 2008).

Art Talk. "In the Galleries." Art Talk, October 2001.

Patterson, Ann. "Urbane Cowboy." Art & Antiques, February 2002.

Southwest Art. "Art Events." Southwest Art, August 2002.

Southwest Art. "On the Scene." Southwest Art, January 2002.

Southwest Art. "Resort Town Collections." Southwest Art, October 2001.

 Last Modified 4/1/20