Worlds beyond My Window
The Life and Work of Gertrude McCarty Smith
A kaleidoscope of creativity explodes on the page from one of the South’s most underappreciated artists
Artist, columnist, and poet Gertrude McCarty Smith (1923–2007) of Collins, Mississippi, carried herself as a demure and proper southern lady, yet this was deceiving as she was a prolific, creative trailblazer who had collectors and dedicated readers from coast to coast, and even in Europe. She grew up during the Great Depression with only some vivid storytelling and pictures from the family Bible to inspire and kindle her artistic spirit. However, at the age of ten, her career launched when her grandmother coaxed her with a box of crayons to milk the family cow—her seventy-year love affair with the arts was born. Over the years, she would express her creativity in many forms, resulting in thousands of paintings, sculptures, songs, poems, and newspaper columns and along the way a variety of artful cakes, as she ran a celebrated twenty-five-year cake business. Her art appeared in all shapes, sizes, materials, and “eatability. ”
For most of her early career, Gertrude dabbled with a variety of styles—with subjects mostly centered around life in rural Mississippi and her spiritual life. But in 1980 at the age of fifty-seven, she attended her first Mississippi Art Colony at Camp Jacob in Utica. Over the next fifteen years, she would make her pilgrimage twice a year to be inspired by celebrated guest instructors from around the nation and connect with fellow artists. The Colony was a major catalyst, exposing her to new styles, giving her encouragement and freedom to experiment. Gertrude said of the Colony, “I never knew anything about abstract art, but it fascinated me to no end. Abstract art to me is like a beautiful melody without words. In mixed media, I am in another world and often am surprised at the piece that evolves from the torn watercolor papers. The effect is a kaleidoscope of colors that makes the retinas dance. ”
This book features more than 150 images, a dozen poems, insightful essays from New York art dealer Stephen Rosenberg, acclaimed southern cultural scholar and curator Pat Pinson, and artist, curator, and instructor Rick Wilemon, along with a foreword by Tommy King, president of William Carey University, and a chronicle of her life’s journey by her son-in-law, Thomas R. Brooks.
As Rosenberg has said, “Gertrude Smith is a remarkable and authentic American woman who teaches us that talent and creativity combined with a humanistic spirit is both a state of mind and a state of grace—at any age. ”
Book proceeds will benefit the Gertrude McCarty Smith Foundation for the Arts to bring access and passion for literature, performance, and visual arts to children in underserved communities throughout Mississippi.