American-German Wanderer

Kiki Smith by © Nina Subin

Kiki Smith is a German-born American multidisciplinary artist best known for her figural representations of mortality, birth, and sexuality. Her parents moved from Nuremberg to New Jersey when she was an infant. As the daughter of an artist, one of her first experiences was helping her father make geometric sculptures out of cardboard. This coupled with growing up in the Catholic church had a hand in inspiring her future works.

Smith is virtually self-taught. She enrolled in the Hartford Art School for a brief period of time before dropping out eighteen months later and moving to New York in 1976. There she quickly became a fixture of the Downtown arts scene of the time, participating in things such as the Collaborative Projects, Inc. (Colab), an artists' collective devoted to making art accessible through alternative venues.

Her figurative work of the late 1980s and early 1990s consisted of objects and drawings based on organs, cellular forms, and the human nervous system. Themes of life, death, and rebirth are recurring in several of Smith’s works.

Smith has been the subject of many solo exhibitions, including her most recent; “I Am A Wanderer”, which is her first solo UK exhibition in 20 years. It is a body of work inspired by nature which consists of tapestries, photographs, sculptures, and printmaking.

She has won multiple awards including the Athena Award for Excellence in Printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design, the 50th Edward MacDowell Medal and the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture.

Today, Smith’s works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, among others. Smith lives and works in the Lower East Side, New York City, and the Hudson Valley, New York State.

Follow Victoria on her Twitter at @victoria_agwu