Kiki Smith

Blue Girl

Blue Girl

1998. Kiki Smith. Courtesy Pace Wildenstein, New York. Photo: Ellen Page Wilson. (c) Kiki Smith



Kiki Smith (born January 18, 1954, in Nuremberg, Germany) is an American artist classified as a feminist artist, a movement with beginnings in the twentieth 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 theme of birth and regeneration, sustenance, and frequently has Catholic allusions. Smith has also been active in debate over controversies such as AIDS, gender, race, and battered women.

Smith began sculpting in the late 1970s. She is best known for her sculptures; however, she creates pieces in a variety of media. Her print collection is particularly extensive and began in the 1980s. On prints, Smith has stated that "Prints mimic what we are as humans: we are all the same and yet everyone is different. I also think there's a spiritual power in repetition, a devotional quality, like saying rosaries." (1998)[citation needed] Smith's first works were screenprints on dresses, scarves and shirts, often with images of body parts. 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 covered with a system of etched lines, reminiscent of Mary Magdalene's post-Crucifixion hair. However, her face, breasts and area surrounding her navel remain smooth. She wears a chain around her ankle and her face is relatively undetailed and is turned upwards. 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.

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. 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 with author Lynne Tillman to create Madame Realism (1984).

(From:, December 2006)


Banshee Pearls

Banshee Pearls

1991. Kiki Smith. Lithograph with alluminium-leaf on 12 sheets of Japanese paper. 52,2 x 77,5cm each. (c) Kiki Smith

My Blue Lake

1995. Kiki Smith. Photogravure and lithograph on mold-made En Tout Cas paper. 108 x 135,9 cm. (c) Kiki Smith


2002. Kiki Smith. Bronze. 99,1 x 256,5 x 77,61 cm. (c) Kiki Smith

A Gathering, 1980-2005

Lucy's Daughters

1990. Kiki Smith. Silkscreen on cloth. Collection Rena Rosenwasser and Penny Cooper, Berkeley, California. Photo: Ellen Page Wilson, Courtesy PaceWildenstein, New York. (c) Kiki Smith


Best known for provocative depictions of the female body — both in anatomical fragments and in full figure — Kiki Smith has explored a broad range of subjects, including religion, folklore, mythology, natural science, art history, and feminism. By turns intimate, universal, visceral, and fragile, Smith's art renders the figure in frank, nonheroic terms, expressing its dual aspects of vulnerability and strength. Smith uses a wide variety of media, seeking out equivalences between the body and materials of art — the fragility and imperfections of skin and handmade papers, for example, or the fleshy, organic volumes of wax and plaster. Organized in close collaboration with the artist, this full-scale survey of her 25-year career includes nearly 100 objects grouped into thematic clusters she refers to as "gatherings," with works in plaster, bronze, paper, glass, and ceramic, as well as installations, prints, drawings, and photographs.

(From the MOMA website)



1987-1990. Kiki Smith. 12 silvered glass water bottles. 52,1 x 29,2cm each. (c) Kiki Smith


I recently visited the latest Kiki Smith exhibition at The Whitney in NYC, and realised that we have a lot in common as artists. Smith is working mainly with the female body while my work is exploring the male body. We are both extremely interested in the exploration of 'material as meaning' and work in many different media. Another strong connection is the shared love for printmaking. Smith's earliest mature works explored the form and functioning of the human body. More recently her work expanded to include animals and the natural world, both as they interact with people and as subjects in their own right.

The exhibition of her work at the Whitney is a full survey of her work, featuring sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, editioned objects, and installations. An active seeker of possibilities, Smith has sustained a persistent inquiry that has resulted in works of extraordinary power and beauty, inviting us to reexamine ourselves, our history, and our place in the world.

(Excerpt from the Whitney exhibition catalogue)


Pieta (detail)

1991. Kiki Smith. Lithograph on Nepalese paper and methyl cellulose. 233,7 x 334 cm. (c) Kiki Smith