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Kiki Smith

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Kiki Smith
Contemporary (post 1945)
(Nuremburg, Germany, 1954 - )

Kiki Smith was born to the opera singer Jane Lawrence and the sculptor Tony Smith. She was raised in New Jersey, and she spent time with her father in his studio from an early age. After a few semesters in art school, Smith moved to New York City and joined the art collective Collaborative Projects (Colab). After dropping out of college, Smith sought out an eclectic education from a variety of places, including training to be an emergency medical technician, in order to make anatomical studies from cadavers in a morgue, and doing a stint as an electrician’s assistant, which shaped her vision of the human body as a charged electrical network. Her art-historical references range widely, from nineteenth-century wax medical models and Yugoslavian WWII monuments to religious art from the Middle Ages and myths from many cultures. Her early works were often made from ephemeral materials, such as paper and wax, and focused on the human body and its functions. Around the late 1990s, she began to incorporate animals into her work, starting with a series of prints and drawings based on the legend of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, who is often depicted with sheep and wolves. Over the course of her career, she has worked with a vast array of media, including graphite, ink, paper, clay, and metal, and a broad range of techniques, including collage, etching, linocut, lithograph, monoprints, and bronze casting. Recurring themes in her work include death, the body, gender, rebirth, and growth. Since the late 2000s, Smith’s work has been concerned with humans’ relationship to nature. Smith has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions worldwide, including over twenty-five museum exhibitions and five Venice Biennales. Her work is in major collections internationally, and she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, she received the U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts, conferred by Hillary Clinton.

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