Comforting & Harsh
by Elizabeth Krakoviak ’17
Sitting in her corner office in Boland Hall, Assistant Professor of Art Jury Smith, M.F.A., discusses the six large-scale black and white ceramic sculptures that make up her latest collection, "Hush." The geometric pieces of varying shapes and sizes were exhibited at the Delaware Contemporary Museum in Wilmington, Delaware, from November 2016 until January of this year.
“My most recent exhibition prior to 'Hush' was relatively large with 23 pieces, so I’m enjoying the intimate and yet magnified feel of this exhibition,” she says.
Smith uses clay as her primary medium and other materials to create additional layers of meaning and texture. The pieces are hand-built using clay slabs to create hollow forms. "Hush" is an exhibit of ceramic, wooden and Venetian plaster forms in dialogue with stone, and twine.
“Working with clay can be somewhat onerous,” says Smith. “It shifts between being highly pliable and responsive, to being strict and unyielding. Through the years, I’ve grown to truly appreciate that quality. It’s bossy — you have to pay attention, and I like that.”
Smith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2001 and Master of Fine Arts in 2004 from Tyler School of Art of Temple University, but she did not decide to pursue an art career until her junior year of college. She cites an artistic influence from her great- grandmother, who was a painter.
“I grew up admiring her paintings and also observing how much my family cherished her work,” says Smith. “Her paintings are quite simple, like a single bird on a branch in an otherwise empty space. When I look at the paintings, I feel both inspired and at ease, which is something I hope to evoke in others with my own artwork.”
Since her studio career began in 2005, Smith’s work has been included in over 50 exhibitions across the country and abroad in Ireland, Germany and Korea. In 2016, she was featured at three solo exhibitions in as many states. Smith has received both a Diploma of Honor and an Honorable Mention award from Korea’s Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennial, one of the most prestigious ceramics exhibitions in the world. In addition, her work has received recognition from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in the form of two Project Grants and one PECO Grant. She also received a Michael J. Morris ’56 Grant for Scholarly Research at SJU and a Summer Research Grant.
“Working with clay can be onerous... I’ve grown to truly appreciate that quality. It’s bossy — you have to pay attention, and I like that.”
“Support for faculty scholarship is so critical,” says Smith. “It has been instrumental in moving my work forward.”
With the help of this support, Smith says, her work has evolved over time.
“If there is a defining quality in my most recent work, it is the recognition of a nature that is more lyrically inclined,” says Smith. “Today, I am looking for remnants of what has been swept aside, and I am resituating that in the work. With these seemingly incidental details, I’m hoping to create an honest expression and a recognizable gesture.”
Smith, who started at Saint Joseph’s as a visiting assistant professor in 2005, works to share her own methodology with her students.
“I focus on developing a sensitive eye,” she says. “The more sensitive the eye, the more one can observe. My goal is for every student to learn deeply and to be individually acknowledged and understood.”
Smith uses her experiences as both an artist and a teacher to live a meaningful life.
“Like many artists, I make to discover,” says Smith. “The work is not driven by a desire for answers. The work is driven by the intention to experience life as fully as I can.”