MARY T. SMITH Mary T. Smith Main < BACK

Born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, Mary T. Smith made her yard environment out of brightly painted corrugated tin paintings. The daughter of poor black sharecroppers Smith grew up with only a minimal church school education. At an early age, however, she learned to do hard fieldwork, picking strawberries and potatoes. When she was sharecropping with her husband at the Dixie Garden Farm in Martinsville, Mississippi her son says, "She was run off in 1938 because she could do accounts and figured out that she was not being fairly treated." She moved to Hazelhurst, Mississippi where she did housework, gardening and babysitting.

Mary fenced her yard in with brightly colored tin panels and attracted widespread attention, because her house is on one of the main streets of Hazelhurst. "I did it," she says," to brighten the place up, and please the Lord." In 1985, her ability to write and her power of speech suffered when she had a serious stroke, but her compulsive desire to "fix up" her hillside yard kept her going. Smith's home was her castle, a fenced-in environment proclaiming her belief in the Lord and the wisdom of following His commandments, along with a colorful display of portraits of neighbors, heroes, and friends. The artist is influenced by television images, popular illustrations, and religious sayings and usually paints her subjects flat, without detail.

She has been included in many major museum exhibitions at the High Museum of Art and elsewhere. She was also included in the recent exhibition, Treasures to Go, presented by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.



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