Kiki Smith’s work was born from a marked sensibility to genre themes.
Variegated in shape but close to a coherent path, starting from the early eighties, it developed as scrutiny of female identity and iconography in a world codified by the separation between genders.
With the aim to examine the physical and psychic depth of human being, Kiki Smith initially concentrated on femininity and on its representations in the intimate sphere and in the social sphere, always deeply interconnected. In particular, the artist takes an interest in an incarnate, organic, reality; the body, seat of the most genuine experiences and repository of experiences and traumas that settled there over time, is rescued from taboos and from the secrecy of medical sciences and is depicted in its anatomy and in the relationships between the interior and the exterior; Kiki Smith analyses each of its components, reaching up the most intimate aspects: from arterial, lymphatic, muscular systems to internal organs, viscera, fluids.
In the following decades the subject has developed in terms of attention to women’s representation in cultural history; the artist turned back, to folklore, to religious and profane tales, and even far behind, to myths and legends, up to the figures of Eve and Lilith, of the sirens and the fates.
After a further shifting she focused on the human relationship with nature and animals. Once again the scientific and anthropologic issue and a strong sensibility for the morphological aspect meet in her poetics. Accordingly, Kiki Smith’s work conveys the sense of constituent stratification of female image and body as repositories of an inalienable cultural memory.
In the span of her variegated but coherent progress, the artist has adopted the most various techniques: from installation to drawing, from photography to film, to plaster, bronze, papier maché, glass, wax, porcelain sculpture and a lot of other materials.
In many cases these techniques have been gathered from the discovery of ancient handiworks: another way to mend the threads connecting past and present.
- 11 March 2020