We were privileged to view the extraordinary work of artist Gary Ernest Smith and converse with him at length at his “one man show” at Trailside Galleries in Jackson, Wyoming a few months ago.
We spent considerable time observing the great collection of new and recent works before speaking with him. We found that he works with ease in two quite different styles,
The Human Landscape
Formal portraits of people and buildings;
The Natural Landscape
Scenes from the great Western American countryside.
Components of each style are found the other, but as entourage, not focus. He has mastered this technique.
Gary Ernest Smith is a thoughtful and warm conversationalist. He does not over-rationalize his art, but is very aware and intentional about his work. He summarized his approach as,
“I am a Western Artist not in the ‘Tame the Land’ genre, but in a ‘Cultivate It’ sense. No roping cowboys, fur trappers or Native Americans, but the NEXT generation of those making a living, sustaining, settling the land.”
I warned him that the “Don’t fence the range” folks might take exception to that viewpoint – jokingly, since THEY fenced off pastures, grazing allotments, wilderness and “reservations” for the Native Americans that they displaced.
Norman Kolpas wrote an extensive and well-crafted article that is well worth reading, “Gary Ernest Smith | New Western Perspectives”, published on Southwest Art’s blog on February 15, 2011 (Link: http://bit.ly/zHGgzP ). It provides a wealth of detail into Smith’s life, artistic formation, and philosophy.
If you have an opportunity to see Gary’s work, take advantage of it and gain new insights into the places, the people who “cultivated” community and lives, who sustained the land through solid conservation and community endeavor. People who would be excellent models for our culture today,
Whether “on the land” or in the City.