Gary Ernest Smith

Gary Ernest Smith

“I was born and raised in a rural farm community twenty miles north east of Baker City, Oregon. The demands of farm life taught me the values of discipline and self reliance. When I left the farm for an art career, I was able to draw upon those deep seeded values that rural life had taught me, and my subject matter became those people, places and things that had been so ingrained in me while growing up on the farm. These images cross the boundaries of time and to me they are symbolic of the soul of America.

My work is a sketchbook of my life. It reflects my growth and evolution as an artist. As I have progressed on this journey new experiences and influences have become a part of me and my work.

As a young artist I was impressed by a scriptural passage in Exodus which refers to the artisans and craftsmen who built the tabernacle as “wise hearted.” With this in mind I have always sought a higher level of inspiration and positive purpose that may reflect and inspire the best of humanity. My desire is to create art that is spiritual but not necessarily overtly religious: it must always speak of deeper feelings and emotions that get to the heart of the subject.”


Gary Ernest Smith was born in the rural farm community of Baker City, Oregon in 1942. He exhibited an interest in art at an early age. His parents recognized his talent and encouraged his ability through his youthful years. Gary began selling his landscapes and portraits while in Jr. High and High School. After graduating from High School and attending a workshop at his aunt’s gallery in Lincoln Beach, Oregon, Gary determined to get a college degree and teach art.

Gary met and married musician, Judy Asay in 1967. He completed a bachelor’s degree and was pursuing a masters degree when he was drafted into the Viet Nam war. Following basic training he was assigned to Ft. Mclellan, Alabama teaching at an NCO Academy. After a year he was sent to Korea for six months and was released from active duty. Throughout his military service he kept sketch books and developed his art when possible.

After military service, he pursued his Masters of Arts in Painting at Brigham Young University where he taught part time and served as gallery director at the Harris Fine Arts Center. The friends he knew in college had all moved on by that time and after graduating he decided to pursue a career in painting rather than teach. It was very hard in the beginning, but after ten years of commissions and perseverance, he met art dealer and agent, Ray Johnson from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ray developed Gary’s national career over the next forty years and still serves today as Gary’s good friend and agent.

Gary broke on to the national art scene in 1983 with paintings and sculpture that deal with his rural roots, the subject matter being both historic and contemporary. He has had more than forty one-man and group shows in galleries and museums in the US and throughout the world. His paintings have been displayed in such museums as the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, Eiteljorg Museum of American Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, Denver Museum of Art, Denver, Colorado, Phoenix Museum of Art, Phoenix, Arizona to name a few. Gary has been featured in numerous publications such as South West Art, Art of The West, Western Art Collector, Western Art and Architecture. A book on his life and work was published in the late 90’s titled “Holding Ground: The Art of Gary Ernest Smith” by Donald Hagerty.

Gary lives and works at his home and studio in Highland, Utah with his wife Judy. They have four married children and seven grandchildren.