Mary T. Smith

(1904-1995) Hazlehurst, MS

Around 1975 Mary Tillman Smith began cutting up and painting on sheets of roofing tin which her son had intended to use for a shed. Portraits of neighbors, Jesus, assorted animals and plant forms appear in her work, sometimes accompanied by text. Paintings and assemblages formed a large outdoor environment on her property, located on busy Highway 51 on the south end of Hazlehurst. But it is a common misconception that all of the early work was done on metal; many early works were executed on found wood. She began using plywood panels (often new pre-cut pieces that collectors would bring her, or that she would buy at a local lumberyard) more often as demand for her work increased; at the same time, age-related health issues made working with metal more difficult, though it was used in some of the later work. She stopped painting around 1991. By the time she died, at age 91, she had become a major artist exhibited and collected throughout the world; her work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; de Young Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and many others. Read more about Ms. Smith here, in an essay by William Arnett:


Summertime: Hot When IT's Hot Like This

ca. 1985

17" x 24"

enamel and whitewash on tin



untitled(THREE BUSTS)

ca. 1984

13.5" x 18.5"

enamel and whitewash on found steel panel



untitled(Self-portrait w/christ)

ca. 1984

16" x 24"

enamel on masonite




ca. 1987

22" x 26.5"

enamel on steel panel