I See 2

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Paint and marker on wood
24 x 18 inches
Collection of
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco museum purchase American Art Trust Fund and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Smith used her yard as a very personal and private record, a diary of her life, which she presented publicly. She often painted portraits of herself, as well as of her relatives and friends. Elizabeth says, “She was drawing all of us. She told me, ‘That’s you. That’s your children. That’s your grandchildren.’” Mary’s son, Jay Bird, says, “Her inspiration came from the Lord, and originally she mostly painted Jesus, and Moses once, but later she moved to painting the family and neighbors.” She also painted visitors, recording them as in a guest book with portraits and occasional inscriptions (“We from New York” and “We from D.C.”). One painting records a specific event, a visit by two friends to her house (“I see 2”). Smith depicts herself standing in her yard greeting them. That part of her yard is rendered in accurate detail: the expanse of grass, enclosed spaces, trees, the fence.