Places, Spaces, and Faces: Our Journey
by Aj Smith and Marjorie Williams-Smith
of Little Rock, Arkansas

Merkle and Price Gallery June 2-23
Reception June 5, 6pm

Aj and Marjorie began their art journey together in 1978. While the imagery in their artwork manifests a physical difference, the essence of the message remains identical. In their drawings, both artists speak to the serene and spiritual essence of creativity.

This exhibition, Places, Spaces, and Faces addresses Aj’s journey through the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta regions as told through the faces of individuals and the places where they survive incredible odds. Subjects in the drawings live in small towns and relatively isolated rural areas and present a noble and quiet dignity through their presence. They live quiet lives with much to tell and even more to remember – they represent the majestic innocence of our basic humanity.

Marjorie’s journey has been an introspective one. Her drawings have allowed her to find a place of calm and reflection. It offers time for meditation and prayer. When she first started drawing flowers, it was a way to preserve floral gifts given to her by family and friends. Over time she saw the beauty of the forms – the rich tonal qualities, the textured surfaces, and the changes in color. These botanicals began to take on metaphorical significance – a delicate appearance belies strength and conviction; and if one is quiet and still one can connect with spiritual energy and peace.

The Smiths are no strangers to the galleries at SAAC! Mr. Smith recently won Best in Show for his work entitled “Faces of the Delta” in the 2019 SAAC Juried Art Competition.  They were both involved with other artists in a group show called “Collaborations” at SAAC in 2010.  In conjunction with that exhibit, they both taught Arts in August Education Series Workshops. Aj Smith hosted a relief printing workshop which was an opportunity for artists to experience the beginnings of printmaking as done several hundred years ago.  Marjorie Williams-Smith taught a silverpoint drawing workshop, a technique that dates back several hundred years as well.

Aj Smith was born in Jonestown, Mississippi and currently resides in Little Rock, Arkansas where he has his studio, specializing in drawing with additional interests in painting and traditional fine art printmaking processes.

Aj Smith holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and printmaking (1977) from Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY) and Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and printmaking (1974) from the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. Recognized as a Master Printer in fine art printmaking – he apprenticed five years with Mr. Robert Blackburn, distinguished artist, art professor, and founding Director of the Printmaking Workshop, Inc. New York, NY. Aj Smith was awarded Artist In Residence positions at The Studio Museum in Harlem New York, NY and the Arkansas Arts Center Little Rock, Arkansas. Artist’s Fellowships include Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Skowhegan, Maine; Tamarind Institute Albuquerque, New Mexico; Brandywine Center for the Visual Arts Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and the Vermont Studio Center Johnson, Vermont. Additional Awards and Fellowships include Mid-America Arts Alliance / National Endowment for the Arts, Arkansas Arts Council Artist’s Fellowship, and International Artist’s Invitation – 2008 GKK International Linocut Symposium Klatovy-Klanova, Czech Republic.

Aj Smith is recognized for an extensive national and international exhibition record of graphite pencil drawings, metalpoint drawings, and fine art prints. Notable art review publications include the New York Times Weekend Arts, Los Angeles Times, Flash Art Magazine; international office located in New York City, and Art Forum. His work is represented in public and private collections throughout the United States, China, and Czech Republic, to include the United States Library of Congress; Museum of Fine Art (formerly the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Permanent Collection) Little Rock, Arkansas; Columbia Museum Columbia, South Carolina; Lauren Rogers Museum of Art Laurel, Mississippi; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Marjorie Williams-Smith was born in Washington, D.C. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. After completing her academic training, she worked for several years in New York City as a graphic artist.

Ms. Williams-Smith is Professor Emeritus at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has exhibited her work regionally and nationally. Her work is included in private and public collections including the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection; Evansville Museum of Arts, History, & Science, Evansville, Indiana; the Central Arkansas Library System; the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; the Historic Arkansas Museum, and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Ms. Williams-Smith has received numerous awards for her artwork and was honored to create art for the United States Mint, which served as the design for the Congressional Medal honoring the “Little Rock Nine.” Most recently she was awarded the Governor’s Arts Award for an Individual Artist.

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