Sullivan Goss
Celebrating 34 Years
of 19th, 20th and 21stCentury American Art
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(b. 1950)

Contemporary Expressionist, Realist Painter & Portraitist

by Frank Goss and Jeremy Tessmer

Jack Smith’s paintings seek authenticity, from tender portraits of Bohemians to still lifes that celebrate the eccentric and exotic. Many of his paintings are done in black oil on copper, a medium made popular by the early Netherlandish painters.

Table Of Contents

I. Biography

Jack Smith was born in 1950. At age 16, he began his training at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan before moving to Ohio to attend Columbus College of Art and Design. He also studied for a brief time at the Instituto de Allende, at San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico. He now resides in New Mexico. Reflecting a profound knowledge of art history and and an alchemist's sense of the painting craft, contemporary painter Jack Smith has forged his own place amongst the most powerful of contemporary portraitists working in America.

Jack Smith recently received a prestigious Past Achievement Award from the Peter and Madeleine Martin Foundation for the Creative Arts, following an important solo exhibition titled, Jack Smith: The Taos Portraits at the Harwood Museum of Art at the University of New Mexico in 2004. The exhibition featured fifty portraits of Taos, New Mexico residents, executed between 2000 and 2003. The series was intended as a visual biography of this unique artistic community at the turn of the century. Smith's subjects range from the famous to the infamous -- including artists, writers, art patrons, Native peoples, and street peoples. He recently commissioned a number of private commissions for Sullivan Goss – An American Gallery in Santa Barbara, California. In addition to his continuing national exhibition schedule, Jack Smith has initiated a new project to be published by the Michigan State University Press entitled, Portrait of American Poets. The project will span a selection of thirty portraits of American poets and their work who are currently being recognized for their important contributions to the literary compass of American writing.

II. SGTV Video

"Jack Smith New and Selected Work"
Produced and Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer

For Jack Smith's second solo exhibition at Sullivan Goss, curator Susan Bush assembled a collection that shows the breath and depth of the artist's production with paintings from ten years ago to paintings that have just dried.

To watch the video click on the image on the left

III. An Analysis of the Artist's Work

Incorporating blackoil, wax, lead salts, and copper Smith's small format portraits and paintings are detailed and intimate depictions of creative individuals and charged tableaux. Smith's singular style of portraits glow with a warm inner light and present honest, straightforward images that speak of personal narratives.

Smith’s interest in miniatures developed first as a matter of convenience. In 1982, while preparing for a winter of travel in Mexico, he experienced logistical problems traveling with the larger size painting materials he was using at the time. The solution seemed to be a block of watercolor paper and casein, a milk base paint of versatile possibilities and vehement drying power. Suddenly, his paintings went from three by five feet to three by five inches. The history of oil painting, principally centered around the Dutch schools and their development of a method called black oil painting, often executed in miniature, also captured his interest. Black oil, an oleoresin comprised of white beeswax, raw linseed oil and litharge of lead, suspends the pigment above the painting ground, which was traditionally wood panel, linen or copper plate. This medium seems to suspend the pigment, allowing light to penetrate and reflect from the surface and illuminate the imaged from behind, a sort of light from within.

The small format is an act of compression that requires the viewer to draw in close to a more intimate proximity and will, if the painting works, hopefully approach Joseph Campbell’s description of art as an “object of fascination” to engage the viewer and stop for a moment one’s busy mind.


Self Portrait
Oil on Copper
6 x 6 inches

Self Portrait by Jack Smith was included inTaos Portraits exhibited at the Harwood Museum in 2004. Smith has a long association with Taos beginning from the mid 1970s when he began the first of several periods in the community. After a quarter century of getting to know a wide range of local personalities he decided to paint a couple of his friends. The experience of this proved to be an exciting one and the portrait project soon expanded into dozens of paintings. This piece can be viewed at Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery in Montecito.

Portrait of Judy
Oil on copper
6 x 6 inches

Portrait of Judy, is one piece and one personality that derived from the Taos Portraits. These are not commissioned works, but have come about when Smith approached people and asked them to sit for him. When posing his subjects, he asked for suggestions about how they wish to be seen. His models therefore participate in the process giving much thought on how to pose. After making initial sketches or taking photographs, Smith gets out his paints.

Portrait of Kristen Gossner
Oil on copper
6 x 6 inches

Smith's Portrait of Kristen Gossner was selected by the Cornell Museum to be included in theire 2006 exhibit Eye to Eye. This exhibition, organized by Cornell's Curator of Exhibitions Luanne McKinnon, comprises a broad range of portraiture dating from c. 1561 to 2005. The earliest works are drawn from the Museum's collection, including Tintoretto's Portrait of a Gentleman of c.1580. The contemporary portraits feature works by Chuck Close, Alex Katz, Cindy Sherman, Y. Z. Kami, Richard Phillips, Jack R. Smith, William Beckman, Rebecca Campbell, Thomas Ruff, and Christopher Makos. Eye to Eye examines the powerful relationship between the gaze of the subject and the gaze of the viewer.

V. Exhibitions

Solo Exhibitions (selected list):

  • 2009 Cornell Museum, Winter Park, FL Portriats of American Poets
  • 2008 Reynolds Gallery - Westmont College, Montecito, CA Portraits
  • 2006 Jack Smith Recent Painitngs, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2004 Parks Gallery, Taos, NM, Recent Paintings
  • 2004 Harwood Museum, Taos, NM, Taos Portraits with Wayne Theilbauld City/Country
  • 2000 Jaquelin Loyd Contemporary, Ranchos de Taos, NM
  • 1999 Mongerson Wunderlich Galleries, Chicago, IL
  • 1998 Mongerson Wunderlich Galleries, Chicago, IL
  • 1992 The Print Gallery, Southfield, MI Nudes and Food
  • 1992 Dennos Museum, Traverse City. MI The Triumph of Light
  • 1992 Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI A Light from Within
  • 1991 Sutton Bay Galleries, Suttons Bay, MI
  • 1988 University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
  • Group Exhibitions (selected list):

  • 2006 "Spirited Expressions", Gerald Peters Gallery
  • 2006 Cornell Museum, Winter Park, FL Eyes to Eye
  • 2005 "Scenes of American Labor", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2004, 2005 "Face to Face: Selected American Portraits", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2003, 2004 "Eighth Annual Small Images Show", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2003, 2004 "The History of the Nude in the Art of California", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1994 Bunting Gallery, Royal Oak, MI
  • 1993 MCC Gallery, Muskegon, MI
  • 1993 Perception Gallery, Grand Rapids, MI
  • 1991 Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI
  • 1990 Perception Gallery, Grand Rapids, MII
  • 1985 Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI
  • 1983 Max Siegel Fine Art, Taos, NM
  • 1981 La Fonda de Taos Gallery, Taos, NM
  • VI. Collections

  • Dan Gerber, Private Collection
  • De Pauw University, Greencastle, Indiana
  • Dharma Properties Collection, Del Rey Beach, Florida
  • Harwood Museum, Taos, New Mexico
  • Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, Michigan
  • Sullivan Goss Private Collection, Santa Barbara, California
  • Jim & Linda Harrison, Private Collection, Livingston, Montana
  • David & Jan Crosby, Santa Barbara, California
  • Peter & Madeline Martin Foundation
  • Tom & Lynn Meredith Collection, Austin, Texas
  • VII. Bibliography

    1. 1. Tom Collins, Visual FetishizationPainter Jack Smith combines bravura techinical ability with exploration of the the werid.Albuquerque Journal. August 18, 2000, p. 4.