Art & Design Study Collection: James Smith Pierce Collection
Stored : 211A FF_012_I
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.
Mary Tillman Smith, 1905-1995, created works inspired by cultural movements after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Smith was born in the town of Martinville, Mississippi and was the third of thirteen children. She was educated through the fifth grade, but could not make it to the eighth grade, which was the cap for black students, due to a serious hearing impairment that affected her speech. The school provided no disability accommodations for black students and therefore, Mary had difficulties for the short amount of time she was in school.
When she was younger, she was often found drawing rather than playing with other children. Smith gave birth to her only child in 1941 and built a house where she created her artwork. She used a nearby dump to her advantage and gathered tin for her paintings. As Smith grew older, her hearing worsened, and she found comfort in religion. Many of her pieces depict religious activities and Jesus. She used art to communicate her ideas through patterns and designs. Mary died in 1995 and became one of the most important folk art creators. No longer in existence, the art from Smith’s Hazlehurst home is now in various museums and galleries.
This image shows Mary’s house, which was her safe space and the home of her and her only child until she passed away in 1995.
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