5 Fast Facts: Kiki Smith

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Kiki Smith (b. 1954), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.

Kiki Smith, Untitled (for David Wojnarowicz), 2000

Kiki Smith, Untitled (for David Wojnarowicz), 2000; Etching and engraving, with aquatint, spitbite, and sugarlift on Hahnemühle paper; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist and her biographer, former NMWA Chief Curator Helaine Posner

Kiki Smith (b. 1954)

1. Spirited Away

Smith cites Catholicism’s focus on the human body as source material. “Catholicism is a body-fetishized religion. It’s always taking inanimate things and giving meaning to them.” Smith has based sculptures on Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary, but uprooted traditional expectations.

2. Proof is in the Print

Although she is best-known as a sculptor, Smith has also worked in printmaking since the late 1970s. The “endlessly fascinating” printmaking process allows Smith to examine proofs at various stages, offering the artist the flexibility to experiment and re-work an image until she is satisfied with the result.

3. Poetic License

Smith’s work on view at NMWA highlights her interest in the relationship between women and nature. She illustrated Sampler, a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson, and assembled the drawings into one hand-colored and gilded layout. Smith’s imagery was inspired by embroidered samplers from the 18th and 19th centuries.

A visitor studies Kiki Smith’s Sampler, 2007 on view in NMWA’s collection galleries

A visitor studies Kiki Smith’s Sampler (2007), on view in NMWA’s collection galleries

4. Life and Death

Smith lost her father in 1980 and her sister, Beatrice, to AIDS, in 1988. These deaths prompted Smith to explore themes of ephemerality and mortality. In this vein, she has created death masks in homage to her family and friends. She also cited Gray’s Anatomy as inspiration and studied cadavers.

5. Matter of Opinion

Friends fuel Smith’s creative process. She explains that “you get the benefit of everyone’s opinions and so it’s not just about you in your you-dom.” Welcoming other perspectives, Smith says, “I’d rather make something that’s very open-ended that can have a meaning to me, but then it also can have a meaning to somebody else.”

—Olivia Lussi was the fall 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: April 1, 2016

The New York Times charts the resurgence of women-only art shows, stating, “While some artists are ambivalent about being viewed through the lens of gender, the all-women’s group show, which fell out of favor in the ’80s and ’90s, is flourishing again.”

The New York Times article adds, “If these shows don’t close the gender divide, they at least provide substantial investment and rigorous scholarship to illuminate narratives that have slipped from the art historical record.”

Front-Page Femmes

In tragic news, Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid died of a heart attack on Thursday at the age of 65. Regarded as “the greatest female architect in the world today,” Hadid was the first woman to win the Pritzker prize. The Guardian and ArtInfo share images of her architectural achievements.

Valeria Napoleone discusses her collecting philosophy of buying work only by women artists.

Media executive and philanthropist Elisabeth Murdoch launched an annual £100,000 award for a mid-career female artists based in the U.K.

ARTnews shares Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere’s new works exploring life and death.

An exhibition of hand-painted pottery by Aboriginal women of Hermannsburg celebrates their football heroes.

After she sold stocks in front of a live audience and painted their fluctuations in value, Sarah Meyohas was accused of “manipulating the market.”

Kiki Smith says, “I’m not trying to dictate what other people think about. I’m just presenting something, and if that something is successful it resonates to other people in their own lives.”

Los Angeles-based photographer Ilona Szwarc documents Texan girls who compete in rodeos.

Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh creates enlightening photographs through careful staging, painted subjects, and bold colors.”

Known for her large-scale works, Louise Fishman says, “It is a very interesting thing to go from a little painting to one that involves the whole body.”

Anoushka Shankar blends sitar sounds with pop music in a response to the trauma of displaced refugees.

The New Yorker profiles “the greatest singer in the history of postwar popular music”—74-year-old songstress Aretha Franklin.

Novelist Marilynne Robinson is the 2016 winner of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

Hyperallergic reviews the latest production of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s “Really,” in which the play’s three actors and 30-member audience are housed in a plywood box.

Shows We Want to See            

Hyperallergic explores Linda Teggs (left) and Frances Goodman (right)

Hyperallergic explores Linda Tegg’s work (left) and Frances Goodman’s exhibition (right)

Photographs, videos, and installations by Linda Tegg remind audiences about humanity’s connection to the animal kingdom.

In Rapaciously Yours, South African artist Frances Goodman examines femininity, costuming, and role-playing—through artwork comprised of acrylic nails.

Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson explores visibility in terms of class, gender, race, and the media in her exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design. Her highly-adorned objects feature bodily forms camouflaged by floral prints, embroidery, and glitter.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.