Title of Work
Fred Smith Concrete Park 1
Date of Work
Super 8 film
Art & Design Study Collection: James Smith Pierce Film Collection
Stored: JSP.FAST.FILM BOX 1
UND Art Collections Repository
Born in Brooklyn, New York, James Smith Pierce received his PhD in art history from Harvard University. During his career as a professor, Pierce also became an accomplished artist, whose artworks were included in important exhibitions (including a show on land art at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC) and books on contemporary earthworks and site-specific sculpture. Pierce was also a photographer, exhibition curator, and art collector.
About Fred Smith:
Fred Smith was born in 1886 in Price County, Wisconsin to a family of German immigrants. Smith would never receive any formal education and would go his entire life without learning to read or write. From a young age, Smith began working as a lumberjack in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. At the age of 50, worsening arthritis forced him to retire from being a lumberjack. He then constructed and operated the Rock Garden Tavern, where he often played the fiddle to entertain guests.
The inspiration for Smith’s first sculpture is somewhat strange, indeed, it was not until he was 65 years old that he first discovered his artistic predilection. A boy who visited his tavern was wearing a sweater adorned with a deer jumping over a log; Smith found the image compelling and decided to make his own version from concrete. This wound up becoming the first of over 237 works of art. To create these sculptures, Smith would first create a sort of wooden skeleton of the desired figure. This skeleton was then wrapped in wire, the wire covered in concrete, and then the exterior adorned with pieces of glass. Owing to his lack of literacy, Smith dictated names and descriptions of his work to someone else and created plaques bearing the text.
Smith had a stroke in 1964 shortly after finishing his final sculpture which ended any plans for additional work that he may have had. Smith died in 1976. The Kohler Foundation purchased the property shortly thereafter and began an extensive restoration project. A storm upset much of this work but ended up being a boon; the extensive damage provided an opportunity to change out the old and rotting wooden skeletons with ones made of metal. The property is now owned by the county; visitation is free.
Digitally preserved 2021.
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