The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh provided Kiki Smith with their extensive bird collections as source material for her installation.
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh provided Kiki Smith with their extensive collections as source material for her installation. She made detailed drawings of a variety of pelts from birds that nest in western Pennsylvania. The drawings were made by scratching lines directly into Kodalith film, and were then transferred to 25 different silkscreens.
Smith printed the bird drawings onto printed fields of color that were based on the feather colors of the birds. The printed fabric pieces were trimmed, numbered and then photographed. Smith used the photographs to design the quilts, which consist of two or three segments from different printed pieces. She chose to combine Eastern European floral print fabrics for the backsides of the blankets. We constructed the 68 blankets by piecing together the floral printed fabric, matching it to front pieces at random.
The forty black painted bronze bluejays in the exhibition were cast from a wax bird carved by Smith. Smith rearranged the packing quilts and the cast birds several times before arriving at their final configuration: a single mound, with a black quilt on the top, allowing only the edges of the ones beneath to be visible with the 40 birds across the gallery floor oriented in a single direction.
Kiki Smith has been known since the 1980’s for her multidisciplinary practice which relates to the human condition and the natural world. Smith uses a broad variety of materials, continuously expanding and evolving a body of work that includes sculpture, printmaking, photography, drawing and textile.
Smith has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions worldwide including over 25 solo museum exhibitions. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been the recipient of several awards including the 2012 National Medal of Arts, conferred by Hillary Clinton; the 2010 Nelson A. Rockefeller Award, Purchase College School of the Arts; the 2009 Edward MacDowell Medal, the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture in 2000, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center, among others. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and Columbia University. Smith has been represented by Pace Gallery, New York since 1994.