Jo Smail was born and educated in South Africa. In South Africa she taught in the Fine Art Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Johannesburg College of Art and the Johannesburg Art Foundation. She was represented by the Goodman Gallery.

She has been a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art since 1988, and is currently represented by Goya Girl Contemporary Art Gallery in Baltimore and Washington, and Axis Gallery in New York. Solo and selected shows include: 2015 Juried Faculty show, Juror: Barry Schwabsky, Art Forum Critic and Writer. 2015 Dialogue Jo Smail and William Kentridge at Goya Contemporary, Baltimore. 2015 With Silence Comes Peace Curated by Laura Amussen, Silber Gallery, Goucher College, Baltimore. 2014 Leaning over the Edge of the Moon at Goya Contemporary. 2014 Baltimore Artists + WPA + Mera Rubell = LOVE Juror Mira Rubell, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, NY. 2012 Juried Faculty Show, Juror: Melissa Ho, Hirshhorn Museum. 2011 Sondheim Semi-Finalists, MICA. 2011 Degrees of Absence, Goya Contemporary. 2009 Conjurations Goya Contemporary. 2008 Limits of Language McLean Project for the Arts, Mclean, Virginia. 2006 New Beginnings Axis Gallery, New York, NY. 2004 Degrees of Fluency Heriard-Cimino Gallery, New Orleans, LA. 2005 Soft Openings, Katzen Art Center, American University Museum, Washington D C. Curated by Jack Rasmussen.A book titled "Waking Up From The Inside Out" Jo Smail 1998-2009 was published by Goya Contemporary in 2009.

A book titled "Waking Up From The Inside Out" Jo Smail 1998-2009 was published by Goya Contemporary in 2009.

She has had reviews published in: The New York Times, Art in America, Art on Paper, City Paper Baltimore, Baltimore Sun and The Hudson Review among others.

She has won numerous awards. A selection includes: Nomination for the "Anonymous was a Woman" prize in 2014. Winner of the Trawick Sapphire prize 2012 (the winners of the past ten years of the Trawick prize). 2007 The Trawick Prize. 2007 Strictly Painting Award, MPA. 2010/'07/'04/1995/'91 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award. 2003 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. 2000/03/07 Residency, Rochefort-en-Terre, France. 1996 the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant.

She is represented in private collections internationally, and public collections include: Baltimore Museum of Art. US Embassy, Johannesburg. Chase Manhattan Bank, Johannesburg. Chase Manhattan Bank, New York. Cleveland Clinic. Durban Museum and Art Gallery. Gertrude Posel Collection, University of the Witwatersrand. Johannesburg Art Museum. Johannesburg Chamber of Industries. Johns Hopkins University Collection. Mobil Corporation. National Gallery of South Africa, Cape Town. Premier Milling Group, Johannesburg. Pretoria Art Museum. University of the Orange Free State. University of South Africa. University of Stellenbosch. University of the Western Cape.