Kiki Smith (born January 18, 1954, in Nuremberg, Germany) is an American artist classified as a feminist artist, a movement with beginnings in the 20th century. Her Body Art is imbued with political significance, undermining the traditional erotic representations of women by male artists, and often exposes the inner biological systems of females as a metaphor for hidden social issues. Her work also often includes the themes of birth and regeneration, as well as sustenance, and frequently has Catholic allusions. Smith has also been active in debate over controversies such as AIDS, gender, race, and battered women.
1 Early life,
5 External links,
Smith grew up in South Orange, New Jersey and attended Columbia High School.
Kiki Smith began sculpting in the late 1970s. She is best known for her sculptures; however, she creates pieces in a variety of media. She was an active member of the artists' group Colab.
Her father was the artist Tony Smith and her mother the actress and opera singer Jane Lawrence Smith. They were both religious in some sense; her mother was a converted Hindu and Catholic, and her father was raised by Jesuits. Smith describes herself as spiritual, saying that, "the most important part of my life" has been spent "thinking about God or Gods". There are underlying themes of devotion, religion, repetition, and/or spirituality in Smith's work, whether that be in reference to her own spirituality, or the spirituality of other cultures and their history. Smith has said that she was influenced by her experience as a learning disabled child in school, and that as a result it is important to her for her work to be accessible.
Since 1980, Smith has produced a myriad of works in media such as sculpture, prints, installations and others. These have been admired for having a highly developed, yet sometimes unsettling, sense of intimacy in their timely political and social provocations. These traits have brought her critical success.
Her print collection is particularly extensive and began in the 1980s. The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has consistently collected her prints, and now owns over 50 of her print projects. Speaking of the quality of reproduction inherent to the medium, Smith has stated that "Prints mimic what we are as humans: we are all the same and yet every one is different. I think there's a spiritual power in repetition, a devotional quality, like saying rosaries." (1998)
In the Blue Prints series, 1999, Kiki Smith experimented with the aquatint process. The "Virgin with Dove" was achieved with aquatint and airbrushing with stop-out, an acid resist that protects the copper plate and prevents the Prussian blue ink from adhering, therefore creating a halo around the Virgin and Holy Spirit.
Smith's first works were screenprints on dresses, scarves and shirts, often with images of body parts. In association with artist group Colab, Smith printed an array of posters in the early 1980s containing political statements or announcing upcoming events. A sampling of her other works include: All Souls (1988), a screenprint on 36 attached sheets of handmade Thai paper with repetitive images of a fetus, in black and white. Smith created similar prints including Untitled (Baby's Heads), 1990 and Untitled (Negative Legs), 1991. How I Know I'm Here (1985) is a 16-foot, horizontal, four-part linocut depicting internal organs including a heart, lungs, and male and female reproductive organs, intermingled with etched lines representing her own feet, face, and hands. Possession Is Nine-Tenths of the Law (1985) is a nine-part print portfolio that individualizes and calls attention to the body's internal organs. Smith used the image of a human ovum, surrounded on one side by protective cells, in Black Flag (1989), and 'Cause I'm On My Time (inserts for Fawbush Gallery Invitations ) (1990).
Mary Magdelene (1994), a sculpture made of silicon bronze and forged steel, features a woman's nude body in an untraditional way: her whole body is flayed, skin removed to show bare muscle tissue. However, her face, breasts and the area surrounding her navel remain smooth. She wears a chain around her ankle; her face is relatively undetailed and is turned upwards. Smith has said that when making Mary Magdalene she was inspired by depictions of Mary Magdalene in Southern German sculpture, where she was depicted as a "wild woman". Smith's sculpture Standing (1998), featuring a female figure standing atop the trunk of a dead Eucalyptus tree, is a part of the Stuart Collection of public art on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. While studying anatomy Smith worked with cadavers. For her sculptures she casts both the living and the dead, and has expressed that she tries to be respectful of their bodies.
In 2005, Smith's installation, Homespun Tales won acclaim at the 51st Venice Biennale.
In 2005, "the artist's first full-scale American museum survey" titled Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980-2005 debuted at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Then an expansion came to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis where the show originated. At the Walker, Smith coauthored the catalogue raisonné with curator Siri Engberg. Then the exhibition traveled to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and finally to La Coleccion Jumex in Ecatepec de Morelos outside Mexico City. In 2008, Smith gave Selections from Animal Skulls (1995) to the Walker in honor of Engberg.
"Lodestar," Smith's 2010 installation at the Pace Gallery, was an exploration of death and sickness represented by drawings of figures on large-scale plates of translucent glass and life-size sculpture.
Smith has also created an extensive collection of self-portraits, nature-themed works, and many pieces that depict scenes from fairy tales, often in unconventional ways.
Smith feels that she makes traditional objects.
I miss radicality--in my own work and in the art world. The art world seems very product-dominated, and I'm a product maker. But it's not as interesting an art world now. It's not as determined by artists themselves. When I first came to New York you really had to work at it. It wasn't given to you. I miss that a little bit. I would like to be more outside of things, but it's just not my personality at all.
Of figurative sculpture she has said, "they have real power in them, they take up some kind of psychic space," and that, "I think that objects have memories. I'm always thinking that I'll go to the museum and see something and have a big memory about some other lifetime."
She has created unique books, including: Fountainhead (1991); The Vitreous Body (2001); and Untitled (Book of Hours) (1986). Smith collaborated with poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge to produce Endocrinology (1997), and Concordance (2006), and with author Lynne Tillman to create Madame and Realism (1984).
In 2009, Smith was awarded the Brooklyn Museum Women In The Arts Award.
In 2012, Smith showed a series of three 9 x 6 ft. Jacquard tapestries, published by Magnolia Editions, at the Neuberger Museum.
Kiki Smith has been represented by The Pace Gallery since 1994 and The Galerie Lelong in Paris.