Joan Smyly Durden, M.F.A.


Shelbie Ely, “Joan Smyly Durden, M.F.A.,” Appalachian State University Libraries Digital Collections, accessed June 19, 2024,

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Joan Smyly Durden, M.F.A.


Appalachian State University
Universities and colleges--Faculty


Shelbie Ely




Biographical sketches


Boone (N.C.)

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Professor Emerita

Biographical Text

Professor Emerita of Art Joan Smyly Durden was born in Decatur, Georgia (November 24, 1941). She received a BA in Painting and Drawing from Georgia State University in 1964. She worked as a studio artist exhibiting with Artists' Associates Gallery in Atlanta, and as a package designer for J.H. Matthews Printing. In 1966 she married Garey Durden who was pursuing a degree in economics. In 1969 they moved to Tallahassee where Garey attended graduate school and Joan worked for Florida State University as a secretary. They had a son, Andrew, in 1971. They moved to Norfolk, Virginia in 1972 when Garey received a position on the faculty at Old Dominion University. While living in Norfolk, Joan was a mom and a studio artist still exhibiting with the Atlanta gallery and entering juried exhibitions in Virginia. Also, she began pursuing an Art Education Degree to be certified to teach in public schools. She received a BS Degree in Art Education K-12 in Dec. 1977. For two years she enrolled in courses in clay, printmaking and Jungian studies, subjects she found interesting and wished to pursue. In 1979 Joan began a MFA program in Studio Art at Old Dominion University and received her degree in 1982. She had exhibited in juried art shows such as the Chrysler Museum Biennial, and invitational exhibitions such as "Indoor/ Outdoor" Exhibition with the Center of Contemporary Arts, Richmond Museum of Art. In 1982 Joan and Garey moved to Boone, North Carolina when Garey received a position in the School of Business. Joan was a stay-at-home mom and a studio artist still exhibiting in Atlanta and selling paintings. She also prepared works for solo exhibitions at Duke University and at Western Carolina University. She began teaching in the Art Department in 1984 as an instructor in drawing, design and painting. In 1986 she received a position of Assistant Professor teaching Visual Communications to communications students in advertising. This course included semiotics (the study of signs and symbols), semiology (the study of language, words and connotations) and the history and contemporary application of various media of mass communication; art, printing, radio, film, television, and the computer internet. She also taught painting, drawing and design. She was on the graduate faculty and taught studio courses to candidates pursuing a Master of Art Education Degree, and she served on several Graduate Thesis Committees. During the time she was teaching art/communications, she joined the International Visual Literacy Association and presented papers at the conferences. Two publications were: 1989 Selected Readings of the 20th Annual Conference at Virginia Tech, "Using the Mask as a Vehicle of Communication" which explained a teaching assignment involving a research paper on a particular culture or tradition using masks, a studio project making a mask based on that research, presentation and exhibition; and in the 1990 Selected Readings of the 21ST Annual Conference at ASU at Scottsdale, "The Hollywood Icon of the Cowboy Hero" which explored the "hero" as a Jungian archetype and the darker counterpart, the "antihero" citing Greek mythology, early American tales, dime novels, film and TV. Joan participated in a Study Abroad Program in conjunction with the School of Business touring several European countries and focusing on Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, visiting many art museums and exploring various art movements that evolved from European economic and societal changes. A second project was in 1993 with Terry Suhre, Director of the Catherine Smith Gallery, to study the status of artists in post-USSR Russia in St. Petersburg. They visited several art academies and studios of government-funded artists, as well as several studios of independent avant-garde artists. A turbulent economic situation occurred when Glasnost opened Russia to western ideas and the avant-garde artists began to find financial support from Western Europe, while "official" artists working in iconographic social realism began to lose the government guarantee of support. Durden and Suhre presented a paper "Russian Art in Transition" at the 25th Annual Visual Literacy Association in Scottsdale at Arizona State University in 1994. Joan's scholarship bridges exhibiting artwork and writing papers for presentation and publication. She was featured in the "Research News" of Appalachian's Graduate School, Fall 1994, Vol. XII. Some of the exhibitions are a solo show at Warren Wilson College, juried shows: Women Artists of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; Southworks Juried Exhibition, Watkinsville, Ga.; National Non-Objective Show at the Sawtooth Gallery, Winston-Salem; Graceland National Drawing Exhibition, Lamoni, Iowa; National Drawing Exhibition, Del Mar University, TX. She exhibited at Artist's Associates Gallery in Atlanta for 28 years. Joan's work is included in many corporate and private art collections. Her painting was selected for the installation image for Chancellor Frank Borkowski in 1993. Joan's artwork has always been inspired by nature, the fragility of the environment and consists of several series of paintings of water as a life-giving source. When Appalachian State was asked to participate in a federal project called "A Clean Water Initiative" addressing acid run off from strip mining for coal, it was an opportunity to make artwork and to promote environmental conservation and land restoration. Joan visited and photographed two coalmines in Kentucky and some restored land areas. She painted a body of works based on that experience, and in 1998 she had a solo exhibition in the Department of Interior, Washington, D.C. Joan and Garey both retired in 2004 and moved to Amelia Island, Florida. They enjoy playing golf and walking on the beach. They have traveled to various art centers such as Amsterdam, Bruges, Santa Fe, Taos, and various national parks in the U.S. and in Canada. Joan continues to paint and exhibits at Waterwheel Gallery on Amelia Island. She is presently working on a series on the Okefenokee Swamp. She is also a member of the Coalition of Visual Artists of Jacksonville, and has participated in several juried and invitational exhibitions in Jacksonville. Their son Andrew is an attorney in Atlanta. He and his wife Kati have two daughters, Penelope and Edie. Sources: Appalachian State University files and personal correspondence. -Shelbie Ely

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