Learn how to look at art at Tuesday lecture

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The paintings of Gary Ernest Smith often features figures with obscured faces.

Hometown Heritage and the Iowa State University Museums will partner this summer in a program encouraging the arts and culture in Perry, and the featured artist who figures prominently on the walls of the Hotel Pattee: Gary Ernest Smith.

Smith’s distinctive paintings often feature rural figures with faces obscured by shade.

The first step in the partnership program comes Tuesday when Lynette Pohlman, chief curator and director of the University Museums at ISU, will hold a learning and discussion session about how to understand and connect with the artworks we see.

“Museum objects are transformed into teaching tools through intellectual and physical accessibility,” Pohlman said, and partnering with communities lying outside the university sphere, such as Perry, “has proved invaluable for demystifying the arts. By making the audience part of the creative process, they in turn become enthusiastic ambassadors for the value of the visual arts in an academic environment.”

The Smith show will open with a reception Aug. 23 and continue through December. Along with his paintings in the Hotel Pattee, several of his works will hang in the Security Bank Building and the Towncraft Building. A highlight will come Sept. 22, when Smith visits Perry. He will also lecture in Ames Sept. 23.

Figures in the rural paintings of Gary Ernest Smith often lack visible faces.
Figures in the rural paintings of Gary Ernest Smith often lack visible faces.

The four-month show will feature many art tours and programs in Perry, including the Odd Thursday Tours at the Hotel Pattee. Other activities will feature children’s classes, breakfast art talks, young professional and craft beer night, second-language tours, bike-and-art tours and others.

Local artist Betsy Peterson of Perry is an enthusiastic supporter of the ISU-Hometown Heritage partnership.

“Many of the planned events will include an art cart,” Peterson said, “with supplies for visitors who want to try their hand at making art inspired by the techniques of Gary Earnest Smith.”

Hometown Heritage is the outreach arm of the Fullhart/Carnegie Charitable Trust, which owns much of the hotel’s artworks. The summer exhibition of Smith’s art and the programming supporting it is made possible in part by a $2,000 grant from the Bock Family Foundation that Hometown Heritage landed in April. The funds have been used to buy supplies for the program and advertise the calendar of events.

“We invite you to Lynette Pohlman’s May 31 event to introduce you to connecting with the artwork of Gary Earnest Smith,” Peterson said. “We hope you will be inspired to pass the connection to others in Perry through the planned programming.”

Gary Ernest Smith
Gary Ernest Smith

The painter Smith was born in Baker, Ore., in 1942. He enrolled in Eastern Oregon College in 1963 and transferred to the Brigham Young University in 1964. His studies were interrupted by military service, and he returned to BYU in 1970 to complete his degrees, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts.

According to his biography at the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah, Smith is an “integral member of the Mormon Art and Belief Movement” and a “neoregionalist painter and sculptor of the land and those who care for it.”

He lives in Highland, Utah, and draws on his boyhood on a farm for many of his themes.

“The demands of farm life taught me the values of discipline and self reliance,” Smith said. “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.”

For more information about Tuesday’s visit my Pohlman and the Smith exhibition, contact Hometown Heritage at info@fcctrust.org.
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