Kiki Smith- Wolf Girl (1999)
After a successful weekend of hanging flyers, I think it’s a good time to sit down and ruminate on some amazing artwork. We met so many kind people in Frederick this weekend, and we look forward to them graciously spreading the word about our upcoming show!
As we wait, we’ll be focusing our attention on more publicity for the event - and I personally will be spending a great deal of time on this blog, keeping you - our potential gallery-goers - up to date about the world of contemporary art. A personal favorite of mine, Kiki Smith is starting point for this introduction.
Her work addresses the gender-bias toward “handicraft” head-on and, inasmuch as she confronts this art historical misconception, she delineates for a us a clear image of what it means to be a postmodern artist. Once thought to be second rate or lowbrow art, textile design and other more “matronly” arts were seen as disposable and trite. Yet the tendency to depict natural (feminine) imagery in the works of male artists was the accepted gold standard. As the 21st century unfolded, women found it such a double standard increasingly unacceptable. Women were frowned upon by the art establishment when they previously sought to communicate the female experience through craft; however, thanks to the innovative and socially-aware work of artists like Kiki Smith, this barrier has been slowly breaking down.
Not only is Smith’s artistic portfolio full of beadwork, textile/fiber design, and other looser print media, her subject matter is also decidedly feminist. She focuses on the female body and folkloric depictions of the female identity in her oeuvre. Through using heroine-models like Alice in Wonderland and wolf-like girls, as in the image here, Smith asserts the power and experience of women through heavy reliance on naturalistic themes. Women are not simply “one with nature” or an extension of mother nature, merely a fixture of the landscape; instead, Smith depicts them as active participants in their own fates that inhabit a world of their own creation.
Muted colors often emphasize the austerity and strength of these characters, and men are almost never shown. As a result, wolf-girls retain an otherwordly beauty: they are depicted tenderly and delicately, as if Smith is drawing her own smiling child. What has typically been seen as freakish to a male-ordered society is drawn with utmost care; the unrelenting gaze of the girl, with her small-toothed smile, suggests self-acceptance. She is no Venus, but that does not negate her worth. In typical deconstruction theory, the archetypal beauty is supplanted by the minority group. There is no idealization whatsoever; therein lies the power of Smith’s visionary work.