Kiki Smith

(b. 1954)

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(1954– )

American sculptor, installation artist, and printmaker, born in Nuremberg, Germany, the daughter of Tony Smith. Her earliest experience of making art was helping her father construct cardboard models for his geometric sculptures, but another important formative influence was her upbringing in the Catholic Church. Her work is usually discussed in the context of feminist art. It plays on the relationship between kinds of material traditionally associated with ‘feminine’ craft—including wax, fabric, and lace—and extreme visceral imagery. An example is Tail (1992), a female figure on all fours, which leaves a long trail of excrement. The ambiguity between human and animal is characteristic. In 2005 she held an exhibition in a Venetian palazzo in which she placed among the opulent 18th-century furnishings porcelain figurines including ‘a sort of undressed Red Riding Hood mounting the wolf’ (C. Drake, Artforum International, December 2005). Smith has commented that ‘In the early 90s I said I don't want to make humans any more…But then I started to think about how our identity was constructed around nature and animals and how many metaphors we use in thinking about ourselves in relation to animals’ (School Arts, January 2004).

Subjects: Art.

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