New York - Interviews

The All-embracing Nature of Nature: An Interview with Kiki Smith

8 months ago

For the occasion of her solo show at Palazzo Pitti, Florence and her upcoming exhibition at Pace Gallery, New York, we’ve interviewed artist Kiki Smith.

Lara Morrell: Could you tell us about the title ‘What I Saw on The Road’ for your exhibition at Palazzo Pitti in Florence?

Kiki Smith: I live on a road and I see everything on this road when I walk or drive down it and a lot of it simply inspired me to make things and the exhibition is primarily of the tapestries which were made since I moved to living on this road. So it’s just about that, about being at home in what would be technically down state New York but to a New York City person it would be upstate New York on the CAT scale. This exhibition is primarily Tapestries because the Uffici has a tremendous collection of Tapestries and I think that was the initial starting point. The Tapestries are made by Magnolia editions in Oakland California and woven on traditional Jacquard looms which are several of hundred years old. There are also some small sculptures.

LM: How should Feminism be understood?

KS: You know I think Feminism is not really my primary concern, my primary concern is being an artist but my other concern is certainly to be a human being and feminism is about part of the liberation of human feelings and I believe that we should honour living beings in all their formations, females, males, non specifics, mixed genders, any living being is worthy or our honour and respect, so Feminisim is part of that movement.

LM: Would you be correct to say that nature is your greatest source of inspiration? Where do you think your fascination with the body and bodily fluids derives from?

KS: Yes certainly nature is my source, as it is all there is, there is living nature and inert nature and our nature. Everything on this planet is natural, so yes it’s my source for sure! About the body and bodily fluid, I had a boyfriend and he gave me a book called Grey’s Anatomy which is a very famous anatomy book, he worked in a bookstore and bought me home this book one day and then I worked for five or six years just from that book.

LM: You use varied range of media, combining traditional techniques with more recent technology, is your use of material for different subject matter an intuitive decision or is it integral to the concept behind a piece?

KS: No, I just choose what fits and often I make the same pieces in many different materials, I often also make the same images over and over again.

LM: We are based in Venice, you have exhibited a number of times for the Venice Biennale. Do you think during your various times spent in Venice, the Serenissima has influenced your work in anyway?

KS: Well it certainly influenced all the work I did for Homespun Tales for Querini Stampalia, as it was all directly related to Querini Stampalia. But perhaps Venice has inspired me in life more than anything, because I believe the Venetians and generally all Italians take great pleasure in their lives, in a sensuous way and that is a lesson I think everyone can learn from.

LM: You live and work in New York, we are now putting our guide together for the occasion of the Armory Show, could you divulge a few insider tips of where to go and what to see off the beaten track?

KS: I like things like the Natural History Museum or if I may put in a little plug for myself (which I rarely do!) I made a very nice window for the Eldridge Street Synagogue (a stained glass window with stars against a fragmented landscape of blue) created by myself with architect Deborah Gans, that’s beautiful and that’s downtown. The MET is the best! There are many places, but I think generally people just like walking around, like Venice its a city to discover by walking around.

LM: Could you tell us a little something about your exhibition at Pace Gallery ‘Murmur’ at the beginning of March?

KS: It’s mostly sculptures I have been working on over the last few years, with prints, etchings and cyanotypes and contact photographic prints.

LM:Which artists did you look up to earlier on in your career?

KS: Frida Kahlo, Eva Hesse, Chagall… all different artists… Nancy Spero and her husband Leon Golub.

Lara Morrell

  • Kiki Smith, Courtesy of the artist Kiki Smith, Courtesy of the artist
  • Kiki Smith, Europa, 2000-2006, Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery Kiki Smith, Europa, 2000-2006, Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery
  • Kiki Smith, Harbor, 2015 Kiki Smith, Harbor, 2015

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