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 junior 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 master’s degree when he was drafted into the Vietnam war. Following basic training he was assigned to Fort McClellan, 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 MFA 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 United States and throughout the world. His paintings have been displayed in 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 just a few. Gary has been featured in numerous publications such as Southwest Art, Art of the West, Western Art Collector, Western Art and Architecture. A book on his life and work was published in the late ‘90s 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.