Arthur "Art" Smith was an Afro-Cuban jewelry designer who’s popular modernist, mid-century work was often inspired by “surrealism, bio-morphism, and primitivism.”
Arthur Smith, born in 1917 in Cuba, was the son of Jamaican immigrants. He moved to New York City when he was just three years old, and continued to live and work there until his death in 1982. From 1946 until 1979, he owned and operated his jewelry shop in Greenwich Village, where he was subject to racist and homophobic attacks due to the racial and political tension of the times. Nevertheless, many, including avant-garde dancers and jazz musicians, wore his art. His pieces are currently in the permanent collections at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Museum of Art and Design, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and his work has been showcased in exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts and at the Brooklyn Museum.
He is quoted with saying:
“A piece of jewelry is in a sense an object that is not complete in itself. Jewelry is a ‘what is it?’ until you relate it to the body. The body is a component in design just as air and space are. Like line, form, and color, the body is a material to work with. It is one of the basic inspirations in creating form.”