Background research – artist Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith is an American artist who was born in Nuremberg in Germany in January 1954 to  minamalist sculpturer father Tony Smith and his wife but brought up in New Jersey and subsequently attended Hartford Art School (but dropped out after 18 months), Connecticut and now lives in New York City.

Kiki has been a leading artist now for over 3 decades addressing issues such as the human body including a period when she clashed against the taboos surrounding bodily functions and also the relationship between the psychological and physiological power of the body and the human condition plus aspects of the realms of spirituality and nature.  Her work has also focused on birth and regeneration as well mortality, race and gender.

She works in many media including glass, ceramic, fabric and paper across textiles, sculpture and printmaking and I first discovered her work researching photographers – her variety of work across the genres really fascinates me.

The websites I have researched her work through include: and also – the Pace Gallery have represented Kiki since 1994.

The last link I am having to refer to due to copyright laws and shows the reason I include Kiki in my research here … it has samples of her prints which involve simply lines and effectively mark making.  I particularly love ‘Charm (portfolio) 2011’ which appears to be a collection of prints and also her ‘Spinster series’ of 2002 which appear to be white prints on black backgrounds.

The lines in the Charm collection are quite simple but clearly time has been spent on each individual one and I wonder whether these were done as forerunners to other works or as mark making exercises in their own right – they strike as quite meditative in the way they are done.

The Spinster series is more striking partly due to its subject but also due the white on black and is very sketch like in appearance with almost a fog or mist over the top which I do like because it softens quite harsh, raw lines – maybe that is also part of the attraction in that the prints are very raw in appearance which reflects the subject matter perfectly.  The spinning wheel in the background seems to add to the raw femininity and also is suggestive of weaving clothing for the naked woman.  I like the way Kiki has drawn the woman and the way she draws figures is not of the ‘life drawing’ style of many – her style suggestive of self portrait too which again I really like.

The way Kiki draws is simple yet effective – no complex of marks but rather just using a series of marks that she has developed as her own and that she can use across her favoured art forms – over the decades she has a signature style of marks that are recognisable as her own.

I will be adding to my research in my sketchbooks whereby I can print off images and take inspiration from further.  Her sculpture and textiles and subject matters are interesting to say the least and I have seen her described as a feminist artist which is a perfect description.


Please be aware this post was done during the first part of the course before I understood the need to use the Harvard referencing system and how to do it which admittedly took a little time to get to grips with.




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